US basketball

Estelito magic: Bong Revilla gets away with new trial delay

Lian Buan

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Estelito magic: Bong Revilla gets away with new trial delay
The prosecution begs the Court, ‘do not be hypnotized by Revilla’s chanting of repeated arguments’

After 5 months of delay, former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr was given a final schedule on Thursday, June 14, to start presenting his evidence in his pork barrel scam plunder trial at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. But on Thursday, neither Revilla nor his lead counsel Estelito Mendoza was present.

Why? Because they had filed an urgent motion that again effectively reset the trial for a new schedule on June 26. The original schedule was January 25.

Frustrated, the Ombudsman prosecutors begged the Court not to be “hypnotized by Revilla’s chanting of repeated arguments.” (READ: How Revilla’s team is defending him in his plunder trial)

What was the motion? Mendoza filed an urgent motion to require the prosecution to identify its evidence, claiming that Revilla cannot be expected to defend himself without knowing the evidence against him.

It is anchored on Mendoza’s long-standing argument that the charge against Revilla is unclear. It is also the same argument used by the veteran litigator when he ran to the Supreme Court asking for a Temporary Restraining Order or TRO.

But the Estelito Mendoza magic has not worked so far in the High Court. Known for his influence and supposed ties to the Supreme Court, Mendoza has had to resort to a newspaper ad to put pressure on the SC to act, but to no avail, or at least not yet.

PRESSURE. Estelito Mendoza pays for a newspaper ad to put pressure on the Supreme Court to act on his petition to clear, or at least grant bail, to former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla. Sourced photo

“It is very inaccurate, if not misleading, on the part of accused Revilla to claim that he is not aware of the evidence adduced by the prosecution and admitted by this Honorable Court to prove the primary elements of the offense of plunder as alleged in the Information,” the prosecution said in its opposition to the Court.

Ombudsman prosecutors said that the bail hearings as well as their own presentation during the trial have clearly identified their evidence against Revilla.

“Revilla cannot and should not be allowed to feign ignorance of the aforesaid testimonial and documentary evidence,” the prosecution said.

The prosecution added that Revilla’s urgent motion is just a rehash of all the motions they filed before, and which were junked by the Court. “The Supreme Court does not allow this,” they said, citing a past decision that prohibits litigants from filing ”identical motions repeatedly.”

How was the trial delayed? The prosecution rested its case as early as October 2017, but the defense was given the opportunity to file motions to seek an outright dismissal of the charges. They lost twice in that bid.

The defense was set to present evidence on January 25, 2018. That’s when Mendoza ran to the Supreme Court, and he used this petition to delay the hearings at the Sandiganbayan, saying the SC must be heard first before proceeding.

By March, the Sandiganbayan First Division had had enough and compelled the defense to start presentation with or without an SC ruling.

Curiously though, they allowed the other accused to present ahead of Revilla. Since March, Revilla’s former staff Richard Cambe has had his turn, and so has Janet Lim Napoles, but she waived her turn to adopt Cambe’s presentation.

June 14 came without a presentation from Revilla – again.

First Division Chairman Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona did not mention the motion on Thursday. The usually tough-talking justice, Geraldine Faith Econg, was not present in the hearing.

Instead they discussed Revilla’s request to go on a routine dental checkup on June 18.

“While accused does not intend to abuse this Court’s liberality, accused again humbly beseeches this Honorable Court’s compassion to permit him to undergo the foregoing dental procedure,” Revilla said. 

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.