Sandigan justice: No more delays in Revilla plunder trial
MANILA — In a rare instance, Sandiganbayan First Division Justice Geraldine Faith Econg personally presided over the preliminary conference in the plunder trial of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
While justices rarely oversee this stage, Econg saw it fit to preside over the two sessions for limiting the issues and marking of the evidence to be presented during the trial.
Econg, who wore a barong and tied back her hair in a ponytail, told the parties that she intended to “wrap up the preliminary conference and simplify issues to be presented in court.”
Revilla was on track to being the first senator to reach the trial stage in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam. He is accused of amassing P224.5 million in kickbacks by endorsing dubious foundations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles for his pet projects.
But the start of the trial had to be postponed three times on Jan. 12, Feb. 9, and Feb. 23 because of still unresolved issues that hampered the issuance of a final pretrial order governing the trial proceedings.
Since Revilla was accused of already receiving the commissions even before the projects’ implementation, his defense argued that the issue of “ghost projects” could be cut out of the proceedings on the basis that this was irrelevant and immaterial in proving the crime of plunder.
This forced the court to return to the preliminary conference stage. During the cancelled Feb. 23 hearing, Econg told the parties that the court would give ample time to settle the issues and “no further cancellation would be entertained.” SFM/rga
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