Revilla gives up four days of trial to buy time for TRO
Former Senator Bong Revilla Jr. has forfeited the first four days of the presentation of his defense evidence in his P224.5-million plunder trial in order to buy more time to secure a stay order from the Supreme Court against the proceedings.
Revilla and his fellow pork barrel scam defendants, chief of staff Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, gave up four of the 60 total hearing dates, because the Sandiganbayan First Division on Thursday denied the former senator’s plea to postpone the start of the defense’s turn to present witnesses.
Division chairman Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz in open court cited the “vehement opposition” of prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman.
Having lost the dates of Feb. 15, 20, 22, and 27, the defendants would start presenting their evidence on March 6.
At the sidelines of the hearing, Revilla’s lawyer, former Solicitor-General Estelito Mendoza, told reporters: “Hopefully, the Supreme Court will act on our petition before March 6.”
Revilla and Napoles have filed separate petitions before the Supreme Court questioning the court’s Dec. 7 denial of their motions for leave to file a demurrer against the prosecution’s evidence. They sought a temporary restraining order to stop the trial.
The Sandiganbayan’s denial of the motion for leave meant the accused would have to present evidence to defend themselves or risk waiving their right to present his evidence if he continued to challenge the sufficiency of the Ombudsman’s plunder evidence. Such a default could theoretically result in their conviction.
The Ombudsman’s evidence include the testimonies of whistleblowers including Napoles’ financial officer Benhur Luy, the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s report on Revilla’s bank transactions, and the testimonies of local government officials who attested that Revilla’s pork barrel-funded projects were never implemented. /je
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