Ombudsman insists: Bong Revilla liable to pay P125M in damages
The Office of the Ombudsman has urged the Sandiganbayan to compel former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla to pay P124.5 million in civil damages to the national treasury, despite his acquittal in a plunder case over the use of his pork barrel funds.
In a 17-page motion to the antigraft court’s First Division on Jan. 28, state prosecutors said that while Revilla was acquitted of plunder, it did not mean he had no civil liability since the crime was executed through his office.
They noted that in its decision to acquit Revilla and convict his chief of staff Richard Cambe and pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in the criminal case, the court took time to distinguish by name the three accused.
But in the court’s order for the payment of civil damages, it used the word “accused” without distinction, they said.
The prosecutors said they took this to mean that Revilla was included in the order to pay civil damages.
In its decision on the plunder case, the Sandiganbayan said the accused were “solidarily and jointly liable to return to the national treasury the amount of P124,500,000.”
Collective term ‘accused’
“Had the court wanted to exclude Revilla, it could have simply and easily named Cambe and Napoles in the third paragraph, as it did in the first paragraph [of the decision]. It would not have used the collective term “accused” without exception and distinction,” the prosecution said.
“Courts can acquit an accused on reasonable doubt but still order payment of civil damages in the same case,” said the prosecutors, led by lawyer Manuel T. Soriano Jr.
“As then senator of the Philippines, Revilla should be held accountable to return the amount of money bled out from the coffers of the government by the scheme and scam maneuvered by a public officer under his direct supervision and control,” they said.
Revilla was negligent in his duties since he allowed the pork barrel scam “to flourish under his nose,” they added.
But Revilla’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, said in a statement that since his client was acquitted of criminal liability in the case, he could not be ordered to pay civil damages.
“Our laws are supposed to be instruments of justice. In criminal cases, justice is served when the guilty party is found to have committed the offense charged beyond reasonable doubt, otherwise, he may not be punished by any measure,” Mendoza said.—PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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