MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Friday, December 7, that it respects the decision of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to acquit former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr of plunder.
"Regardless of the sentiments to the contrary, we have to bow down to the judgement of the Sandiganbayan," Presidential Spokesman and Chief Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Friday.
"We have consistently respected the independence of the Judiciary and we will continue to do so in this case as we implement the final orders of the anti-graft court on the matter," he added.
Panelo, who once served as Revilla's lawyer, described justice in the Philippines as "slow" but that court verdicts when handed down are "exacting, immutable."
Earlier on Friday, the Sandiganbayan's special first division ruled via majority vote that Revilla is not guilty of plunder. He was accused of earning P224.5 million worth of kickbacks through the pork barrel scam.
The court convicted Janet Lim Napoles and Richard Cambe of plunder, and ordered the return of P124.5 million to the Philippine treasury.
Revilla is among 3 former senators accused of funnelling his Priority Development Assistance Fund into fake non-governmental organizations owned by Napoles. The others are Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, both out on bail.
When he was still a presidential candidate in January 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte had said that he would “see to it” that Revilla would be granted bail if the evidence was “weak.” (READ: Duterte: If evidence is weak, let Bong Revilla out on bail) – Rappler.com
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Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.