No freeze order means no unlawful wealth, says Revilla lawyer
The supposed lack of any freeze order on former senator Bong Revilla’s bank accounts means authorities did not find any irregularity with his wealth, his lawyer argued on Tuesday.
While the prosecution has presented witnesses confirming the submission of bank documents for the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s inquiry, former Solicitor-General Estelito Mendoza pointed to the lack of a subsequent freeze order from the AMLC.
“That means the AMLC did not find any evidence of any unlawful activity including plunder based on their examination of records,” Mendoza told reporters on the sidelines of a Tuesday hearing.
Had there been a freeze order, he said “the prosecution will certainly be very happy to have displayed that prominently” at Revilla’s plunder trial before the Sandiganbayan First Division.
Mendoza made the statement after cross-examining the prosecution witness, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company chief compliance officer Donato Espino, on Tuesday.
At the witness stand, Espino told Mendoza that he could not remember if a freeze order has been issued because of the sheer volume of the records.
But, Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Joefferson Toribio later clarified in a text message to reporters that Espino only “cannot remember the specific accounts because there were many accounts.”
During the hearing, Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg asked one by one if the freeze orders were issued on the accounts of Revilla, his wife Lani Mercado and her real name Jesusa Victoria Bautista, chief-of-staff Richard Cambe, and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Espino answered a categorical “yes, Your Honor” for Napoles, the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind. But as for Mercado and Cambe’s accounts, he replied, “I do not remember.”
As for Revilla’s account, Espino answered: “I think so.” This drew an incredulous reaction from the senator and his fellow actor Phillip Salvador: “I think so?!”
Mendoza concluded his cross-examination by accusing Espino of “not telling the truth,” and claimed “he does not want to recall.” Toribio replied the defense lawyer was “already deciding for himself” when “it’s for the Court to decide if the testimony is true or not.”
After the hearing, Revilla echoed Mendoza’s points when asked about his visible reactions to Espino’s testimony.
“Sa iba, confirm siya, pero sa akin, hindi niya maalala. Isang patunay lang ‘yun na wala, no red flag (For the others, he can confirm, but as to mine, he cannot remember. It’s just one proof that no, there’s no red flag),” said the senator who turned 51 on Monday.
After Espino, the prosecution is set to present one last witness on Thursday: Imelda Fortugaleza, the compliance office head of BPI-Philam Life Assurance Corp.
Afterwards, Mendoza sought to recall four whistleblowers to the witness stand for additional cross-examination next week.
It may be recalled the testimonies of whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, and Mary Arlene Baltazar formed part of the evidence that were presented during earlier bail hearings in 2014. The court found the evidence strong enough to deny Revilla bail for the serious offense of plunder, leading to his detention since June 2014.
Revilla told reporters his birthday wish: “Sana makalaya na ako (I wish I could be free).” He also wished for “longer life for my father,” former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr.
The actor-politician was accused of receiving P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for funneling his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations to dubious foundations allegedly controlled by Napoles.