Revilla acquittal raises a lot of questions
Is former Sen. Bong Revilla not guilty of the crime of plunder? Is he really innocent? Was he really unaware his trusted former chief of staff, Richard Cambe, conspired with Janet Lim-Napoles to divert his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus foundations linked to Napoles?
These questions remain unanswered even as the Sandiganbayan Special First Division voted 3-2 to acquit Revilla for “failure of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt” that he received, directly or indirectly, P224.5 million in kickbacks from Napoles. Yet in a seeming plot twist, the graft court also found the former senator, Cambe and Napoles “solidarily and jointly liable” to return P124.5 million to the national treasury. (Revilla’s lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, says there was a misreading of this provision).
Based on the published excerpts of the decision, three justices of the antigraft court believed in the “forged signatures theory.” Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg said there were significant differences between the questioned document and Revilla’s standard signatures in the endorsement letters.
Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, in his dissenting opinion, said he found it hard to believe that “the scam of such magnitude was confined only within the realm of Napoles and Cambe to the exclusion of Revilla.” He also noted how the company of Revilla’s wife, Lani Mercado, received sums amounting to P27.745 million in deposits, “most of which were done proximate to the time Cambe received cash from whistleblower Benhur Luy and during the period when that company had no operations.”
Now, Revilla goes scot-free. He cannot be sued again on the grounds of double jeopardy. Ombudsman Samuel Martires has also said they will not appeal Revilla’s acquittal.
Of course, it is easy to be emotional at these sudden reversals. We must nonetheless acknowledge that in order to intelligently comment on the antigraft court’s decision, one must have been present during the presentation of both testimonial and documentary evidence.
But despite the persuasive arguments of both sides, the case ended in a “numbers vote” — 2 out of 3 within the First Division and then 3 out of 5 in the expanded tribunal. Private prosecutor Levy Baligod claims he saw and heard Lani Mercado tell a crowd in Tacloban City on Nov. 7 that her husband would be released on Dec. 7. An expression of hope maybe, but it became a reality.
The sad truth remains: We taxpayers are the ones who stand to lose (if we didn’t already) from this acquittal. Our P10 billion in taxes ended up with Napoles and her politician-friends and we have yet to see anyone made to account for it.
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