Revilla asks SC to stop plunder trial, allow bail

Lian Buan

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Revilla asks SC to stop plunder trial, allow bail
Former senator Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr, through top lawyer Estelito Mendoza, tells the Supreme Court that the Sandiganbayan violated his human rights

MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr took his plunder case to the Supreme Court (SC), asking it to stop his trial at the Sandiganbayan and to let him post bail.

The Sandiganbayan First Division earlier denied Revilla’s appeal for instant dismissal, and is set to proceed to the second phase of trial where the defense will present their evidence.

Revilla is charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from the pork barrel scam.

In a 65-page petition for certiorari submitted on January 15, a copy of which was provided by Revilla’s legal team, the former senator asked the SC to:

  1. act on the petition, and schedule it for oral arguments
  2. issue a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the proceedings
  3. grant him provisional liberty 

Revilla is represented by former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, a veteran litigator and the same lawyer who got the SC to grant bail to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile and acquit former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in their own plunder cases.

‘Violation of human rights’

Mendoza’s argument for Revilla’s bail is similar to how he argued for Enrile. In the Enrile case, he had invoked humanitarian reasons.

For Revilla, Mendoza once again invoked humanitarian reasons, but went a step further by saying that the entire trial at the Sandiganbayan violates Revilla’s human rights.

Mendoza said Revilla deserves provisional liberty because the proceedings at the anti-graft court are “in violation of his rights under the Constitution and imputable to the failure of the Sandiganbayan to perform its duty to enforce those rights.” (READ: How Revilla’s team is defending him in his plunder trial)

According to Mendoza, the Sandiganbayan violated Revilla’s rights to due process, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, and to have an impartial trial where he would get to meet the witnesses face to face.

“And generally the policy declared in the Constitution: ‘The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights,'” the petition states.

Because of these, Revilla’s camp said the SC must step in.

Plunder law

Mendoza took to the SC the arguments which were not given merit by the Sandiganbayan First Division:

  1. That the prosecution were not able to specify the combination or series of overt criminal acts, which is “the heart of the plunder law.”
  2. That all witnesses do not point to a crime of plunder (during the trial, the prosecution presented local officials who were supposedly project beneficiaries but who could not directly implicate Revilla)
  3. That the prosecution accuses Revilla of endorsing the pork projects, and that endorsement is not a crime specified by the plunder law

They have used these arguments time and time again, including in their motion for leave to file a demurrer of evidence, which if approved, would have boosted their case for an outright dismissal. In the end, the Sandiganbayan First Division ruled that Revilla must present his evidence.

“Regrettably, adherence to their mandate by the Sandiganbayan was ritualistic rather than an implementation of the fundamental rights of an accused under the Constitution,” the petition states.

Before lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio left the Ombudsman to be a trial court judge, he had said that their strongest evidence against Revilla is a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which shows that deposits were made to Revilla’s accounts on the same dates that whistleblower Benhur Luy said he deposited kickbacks. –

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Lian Buan

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