Bong plunder trial expected to take 2 years
The plunder trial of detained former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. may take up to two years, with the dozens of witnesses lined up in the case.
During Thursday’s hearing, the Sandiganbayan First Division again postponed the beginning of Revilla’s plunder trial to June 22, although it started plotting out the course of the proceedings.
The prosecution was given 60 settings, while the defense teams of Revilla, his chief of staff Richard Cambe, and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles were given a total of 50.
One setting takes half a day, which means two back-to-back settings will be held every Thursday morning and afternoon.
Justice Efren dela Cruz, who chairs the division, estimated that at this rate, the trial might take “more than one year, less than two years.”
“Hopefully,” replied Revilla’s lawyer Keith Richard Pioquinto, drawing the laughter of his fellow lawyers.
The trial did not start as scheduled on Thursday because the pretrial order has yet to be finalized due to the submission of additional prosecution evidence, as well as Revilla’s pending appeal for the exclusion of the “irrelevant” issue of ghost projects from his plunder trial.
The pretrial order, which serves as guidelines governing the presentation of evidence, will be signed on June 15. Revilla, Cambe and Napoles were summoned to attend the hearing.
During the hearing, the court also tried to pare down the evidence to be presented.
At one point, Justice Geraldine Faith Econg urged the prosecution to consider trimming down the number of bank employees to testify on Revilla’s bank accounts.
Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Joefferson Toribio said it would be the bank tellers who have “personal knowledge” on the transactions they handled and not the bank managers. Such testimonies would corroborate the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s report on Revilla.
Econg also asked Revilla’s camp if they would confirm the existence of such bank accounts, but Pioquinto said that was privileged and confidential information.
Revilla is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund proceeds to dubious foundations linked to Napoles.
He has been detained since June 2014 at the Philippine National Police custodial center for the nonbailable offense.
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