Revilla: ‘Ghost projects’ issue irrelevant to plunder trial
MANILA — In a bid to trim down the fat off his likely protracted plunder trial, former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has told the Sandiganbayan to cut out the evidence of ghost projects from the discussion for being “irrelevant and immaterial.”
Since Revilla is accused of getting P224.5-million in kickbacks through his endorsement of the nongovernment organizations of Janet Lim-Napoles, his camp questioned the necessity of threshing out the issue of whether his pet projects were implemented.
Although trial is tentatively set to start Thursday (Feb. 23, the court’s First Division is still soliciting the comments of the parties for the pretrial order to guide the presentation of evidence and issues. The draft is currently 553 pages thick.
Revilla’s camp, joined only last month by star defense lawyer Estelito Mendoza, stressed in their 36-page comment that the pre-trial is meant to ensure the case’s “prompt disposition through a simplification of issues.”
His camp asked the court if the prosecution should still prove how the pork-funded projects failed to materialize when Revilla was accused of acquiring ill-gotten wealth already before the implementation stage.
“Plaintiff’s evidence, particularly those that tend to prove ‘ghost or fictitious projects’ referred to in the Amended Information should be excluded from these proceedings, for being irrelevant and immaterial to the charge of plunder against accused Revilla,” the comment stated.
Even during the originally scheduled start of trial on Jan. 12, Revilla and his wife, Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado, had bemoaned that the huge number of witnesses and documents would prolong his trial and detention.
During the hearing, Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Joefferson Toribio said the prosecution would present 119 witnesses.
According to the draft pretrial order, witnesses include JLN Corp. whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas; Commission on Audit Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia; National Bureau of Investigation supervising agent Rodante Berou; and various government officials, records custodians and bank managers.
This is on top of the hundreds of documentary exhibits, a listing of which at a glance already takes up 400 pages of the draft pretrial order.
On the other hand, Revilla’s camp will present 322 pieces of evidence and 31 witnesses including Janet Lim Napoles, former Interior secretary Manuel Roxas II, former Budget secretaries Rolando Andaya Jr. and Florencio Abad, socialite Ruby Tuason, and the three aforementioned whistleblowers.
The plunder aspect of this case is separate from the graft charge filed against Revilla over the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund proceeds. SFM
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