De Lima: Revilla acquittal shows plunderers set free under Duterte admin
MANILA, Philippines — The acquittal of former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. from plunder charges sends the wrong signal to the public, detained Sen. Leila de Lima said Monday.
In a dispatch from Camp Crame where she is currently detained, De Lima said the ruling of Sandiganbayan acquitting Revilla made it appeared that government officials were no longer accountable for misusing government funds.
“We will remain perplexed at this strange outcome of the judgment in Revilla’s plunder case. But with Revilla’s exoneration and the near impossibility of recovering what was plundered, we can all say goodbye to deterrence of plunderous proclivities among certain lawmakers and other government officials,” she said.
On December 7, the anti-graft court’s Special First Division acquitted Revilla from plunder charges.
“Under this administration, what is now patently evident is that the corrupt and big plunderers are set free, while critics are targeted and charged with fabricated accusations, and mere suspects are gunned down in broad daylight,” De Lima said.
In 2013, Revilla was charged with plunder in connection with the multi-billion pork barrel scam and was detained at the Philippine National Police custodial center at Camp Crame in Quezon City in 2014.
“If the trend of not holding government officials accountable for their misuse of public funds continues,” De Lima said, lawmakers who are awaiting their trial at the Sandiganbayan “can rest easy.”
“They will always have their chiefs-of-staff and Napoles to blame for hoodwinking them into giving away their PDAF, without any accountability on their part. And ‘forged’ signatures would now be a favorite defense,” she said.
The senator said she was puzzled why Revilla was acquitted but her co-accused alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and lawyer Richard Cambe were found guilty of plunder.
“Let’s also ask: was the proven fact, based on AMLC reports, that numerous deposits of more than P87 million were made in Revilla’s and his family’s accounts, within a time frame which jibes with Benhur Luy’s ledgers, ever explained by the defense?” she asked.
De Lima then cited the opinions of Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, and joined by the other dissenter, Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.
“Most logical is (Associate Justice) de la Cruz’s view that assuming that the signatures were forged, it is because ‘Revilla knew and consented to the affixing of his signature on these documents’,” she said.
“(But) In the end, this is also a matter of conscience. A principal being able to bear with his conscience in sacrificing a loyal and trusted aide. And justices of the anti-graft court struggling with their own,” she added. /je
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