Bong Revilla, aide hauled to court for first day of plunder trial
Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. appeared at the Sandiganbayan on Thursday for the first day of his plunder trial over the alleged pork barrel scam.
Dressed in a jacket over a purple polo shirt, Revilla arrived at about 8 a.m.
His chief of staff Richard Cambe also arrived for his trial, also for plunder. Cambe has been accused by whistleblowers of being Revilla’s bagman in the scam.
The antigraft court’s Special First Division ordered the police to produce Revilla and Cambe in court. Both accused are under detention.
It took over two years for the trial to begin for the embattled senator, who has been detained since 2014 at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center.
“You are hereby directed to produce Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. and Richard Cambe before this Court at the Sandiganbayan Building, Commonwealth Ave. cor. Batasan Road, Quezon city, on January 12, 2017 at 8:30 in the morning for trial in the above-captioned case,” the Special First Division said in its order to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center.
The court set the trial proper starting Jan. 12 to be held every Thursday with two sessions per day at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., or for one whole day of trial proceedings.
The order to produce Revilla and Cambe was signed by the anti-graft court First Division clerk of court Atty. Teresita Rosete and witnessed by division chair Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz.
Lead prosecutor Atty. Joefferson Toribio earlier said today’s hearing could be devoted to examining the pre-trial order before the trial could proceed.
The pre-trial order according to the rules of court would limit the issues to be taken up during the trial proper.
Revilla’s lawyer Reody Anthony Balisi has said that the defense would be ready should the prosecution present its first witness against Revilla.
Revilla recently lost a petition before the Supreme Court to dismiss the plunder case.
In a 2015 interview with reporters, Revilla said he believed he was detained for plunder during the administration of then President Benigno Aquino III because of his presidential ambitions.
As early as 2013, Revilla’s party, Lakas, had been eyeing the former action star as its presidential bet for 2016.
“Aaminin natin ang plano kong tumakbo sa pagkapangulo. Sa tingin ko nga, isa yun sa dahilan bakit nandito ako sa kulungan,” Revilla has said. (I admit my plan to run for president. I think it is one of the reasons why I am detained.)
Revilla surrendered and was detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in 2014 after the charges were filed. He was also charged with 16 counts of graft.
He is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
He was denied bail in 2014.
Also detained for plunder is former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is accused of pocketing P183.7-million in kickbacks. Then-Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who was accused of receiving P172.8-million kickbacks, was also detained but was allowed to post bail by the Supreme Court for humanitarian reasons.
Their plunder and graft charges were filed with the Sandiganbayan by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in June 2014. CBB/rga