What about my pay from acting? Bong Revilla asks pork probers
Former Sen. Bong Revilla has questioned why Ombudsman field investigators looking into the alleged diversion of billions of pesos in congressional pork barrel funds to ghost foundations did not take into account his acting projects as his legitimate sources of wealth.
During the second day of his plunder trial at the Sandiganbayan First Division on Thursday, Revilla’s lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, briefly questioned prosecution witness Junelyn Pagunsan regarding this point.
“Did you bother to find out about the movie productions of accused Revilla?” Esguerra asked during his cross-examination of the Ombudsman investigator. “You did not bother to find out whether he earned from these movies and television series?”
“The production of the movies is not part of our investigation,” Pagunsan replied.
In an interview with reporters, Revilla said his lawyer wanted to prove that he drew his income from his several movies and even television series, such as period soap opera “Indio” and situation comedy “Idol Ko si Kap” for GMA 7.
“The point of my lawyer is, if they have investigated how many movies I’ve done, as well as series like ‘Indio’ and ‘Idol Ko Si Kap.’ To be clear, [the question is] if I have the capacity to earn that amount,” he told reporters.
In a separate interview, Director Joefferson Toribio of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) said that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report on Revilla’s bank transactions had long established that the former senator had “unexplained wealth.”
“Of course, the FIO (Field Investigation Office) will not dwell on that … because we already presented the AMLC investigator and because it’s already a report made by the AMLC regarding those things,” Toribio told reporters.
Unlike on first day of his trial, Revilla attended Thursday’s hearing along with his wife, Mayor Lani Mercado of the City of Bacoor in Cavite province.
The hearing took about an hour, as the OSP only had to present the graft investigator to confirm the veracity of the fact-finding body’s documents.
Most of the proceedings centered on objections of the defense lawyers, led by former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, regarding the admissibility and relevance of Pagunsan’s testimony.
Mendoza said Pagunsan should not venture into the authenticity of the documents and annexes which other witnesses would testify later on.
“Matters of preliminary investigation have ceased to be relevant now the case has reached trial. The only relevant evidence is evidence offered to prove the facts allegedly constitute plunder,” Mendoza said.
But the justices allowed Pagunsan to proceed with her testimony, disclaiming that she would only confirm that a complaint-affidavit properly triggered the preliminary investigation without necessarily conceding the truth of its contents.
The trial was cut short due to the absence of the Luzon barangay officials who would testify regarding the allegation that the beneficiaries of livelihood projects funded by Revilla’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations did not receive anything.
Toribio informed the court that the witnesses were attending a seminar, prompting the court to make him promise that the prosecution would bring at least two every week to speed up the trial.
The trial, scheduled every Thursday, will resume on July 27 after a monthlong inventory break by the court.
On the sidelines of the hearing, Revilla lamented that the trial may take some time. “But we can do nothing about it. We have to go through the process. We have been bearing this for three years, but we can see that this [case] is nothing,” he said.
P224.5M in kickbacks
Revilla was detained on June 20, 2014, after the Ombudsman formally charged him with the nonbailable offense of plunder before the Sandiganbayan.
He was accused of receiving P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for endorsing dubious foundations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles as project partners for his PDAF-funded projects.
Revilla’s plunder case was the first of the five to move to the trial stage on June 22, although he missed that hearing because he was hospitalized at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City after being diagnosed with hypertension, dyslipidemia and hyperuricemia (excess lipid and uric acid in the blood).
The other plunder cases were filed against former Senators Jinggoy Estrada (P183.8 million) and Juan Ponce Enrile (P172.8 million), as well as former Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives Rep. Edgar Valdez (P95 million) and Masbate Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete (P108.4 million).