Revilla brings up showbiz income in 2nd day of plunder trial | Inquirer News
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Revilla brings up showbiz income in 2nd day of plunder trial

/ 12:46 PM June 29, 2017

File photo of former Senator Bong Revilla during the hearing for the pork barrel scam case. He is seen arriving at the Sandiganbayan First Division court room and signed the pre-trial order, paving the way for the court to proceed with the full-blown trial for plunder of Revilla and the accused scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
INQUIRER PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

(Updated, 5:49 p.m.) Former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Thursday maintained that his movies were his legitimate source of income, amid an allegation he earned P224.5 million in kickbacks from his pork barrel projects.

Revilla attended the second day of his plunder trial where the Ombudsman field investigating officer Junelin Pagunsan testified about the conduct of a fact-finding investigation that led to the filing of plunder and graft information before the Sandiganbayan.

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Much of the trial was spent on the objections from the defense panel, led by former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, regarding the admissibility and relevance of Pagunsan’s testimony.

Mendoza objected to the testimony claiming that the findings during the preliminary investigation are not relevant anymore, because admissible evidence should only include facts that would prove the alleged offense of ill-gotten wealth through a series of overt acts.

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“I object to this testimony. It’s completely irrelevant and inadmissible. I will have to go to the basics. The accused is charged with the offense of plunder before the court. Now under the rules of evidence, evidence is admissible only if it is relevant to the issue,” Mendoza said.

“It is my submission that matters of preliminary investigation have ceased to be relevant… The only relevant evidence is evidence offered to prove the facts that allegedly constitute plunder,” he added.

The defense panel also took exception at the extent of Pagunsan’s testimony and opposed venturing into the authenticity of the documents and its annexes that the witness would testify on.

In the end, the court, led by division chairperson Efren Dela Cruz, ruled to allow Pagunsan to testify but only in so far as the conduct of the fact-finding investigation is concerned.

In cross-examining the witness, Revilla’s lawyer Ramon Esguerra asked Pagunsan if she had Revilla’s movie and television production investigated, to which Pagunsan said Revilla’s show business background was not part of the investigation.

“Did you bother to find out about the movie production of accused Revilla?… You did not bother to find out whether he earned anything from the production of movies and series?” Esguerra said.

“The production of movies is not part our investigation,” Pagunsan replied.

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Revilla’s wife Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado attended the hearing. At one point while the hearing was suspended, Revilla sat beside Mercado and put his arms around her.

Revilla is known for the “Panday” movies, and the GMA shows “Idol ko si Kap” and “Kap’s Amazing Stories.” Meanwhile, his father and namesake former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr. was known for his role as “Nardong Putik” and other characters that would depict superpowers through amulets or “agimat.”

Revilla Sr., the patriarch who owns Imus Productions, also took the younger Revilla under his wings when Bong Revilla was starting out in showbusiness, giving him cameo roles or supporting roles in movies that came out in the 80’s and 90’s.

In an interview after the hearing, Revilla said his showbiz background would prove that he earned his wealth through legitimate sources and not through the alleged pork barrel kickbacks.

“Ang pi-noint lang ng ating lawyer dun, kung na-imbestigahan ba nila kung ilang mga pelikula nagawa ko, production outfit sa telebisyon na nagawa ko, series like ‘Indio’ at ‘Idol ko si Kap.’ Para mas klaro, kung kaya ko bang kumita ng ganung amount,” Revilla said.

(Our lawyers were pointing out if the prosecution bothered to investigate how many movies and television production outfits I have made, like “Indio” and “Idol ko si Kap.” Just to be clear, so we’ll know if am I capable to earn that much)

He also lamented the slow pace of his trial. The trial was cut short before lunch because the prosecution could not put to the witness stand the alleged ghost project beneficiaries who were not present for the trial.

“Nalulungkot ako dahil medyo matagal pa. Pero wala tayong magagawa. Kailangan nating dumaan sa proseso… Tatlong taon na tayong nagtitiis dito. Pero nakikita naman nating wala ito,” Revilla said.

(I am saddened by the slow pace of the case. But we can’t do anything. We need to go through the process. It has been three years that I’m enduring the suffering. But as we see it, these are all nothing.)

For his part, lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio said Revilla’s alleged ill-gotten wealth was already tackled in the bank inquiry report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC).

In that report, which was admitted as evidence during Revilla’s bail hearing, the AMLC found out that Revilla deposited P87.6 million in his and immediate family members’ bank accounts from April 6, 2006 to April 28, 2010, around the same period principal witness Benhur Luy alleged the senator received kickbacks from the scam.

READ: AMLC bares Bong Revilla’s P87.6M in ‘unexplained wealth’ | Revilla P87M deposits found

The AMLC also said Revilla closed these bank accounts at the height of the scandal and that the firm Nature Concepts Development and Realty Corp., which was linked to Revilla’s wife Mercado despite having no legitimate transactions, was used to launder P27.745 million.

The deposits to Mercado’s firm were made close to the dates Revilla supposedly received his alleged kickbacks through his aide and co-accused Atty. Richard Cambe, the AMLC then said.

Toribio said the field investigating office (FIO) would not dwell on Revilla’s wealth, because the AMLC had already testified on the former senator’s alleged ill-gotten wealth during his bail hearing.

“Of course the FIO will not already dwell on that. The testimony of the FIO will not dwell on that because we already presented the AMLC investigator and that there was already a report… As far as the court is considered i think one of the evidence that was considered is the AMLC report, that there were unexplained amounts that entered the accounts of Senator Revilla,” Toribio said.

During that testimony, the AMLC investigator then clarified that they only investigated Revilla’s alleged unexplained wealth, excluding the income Revilla earned as a movie star and product endorser.

READ: AMLC prober insists Bong Revilla used wife’s company to launder millions 

Revilla surrendered and was detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in 2014 for plunder for allegedly pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) in the scheme of using the pork barrel fund in ghost projects by mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Also detained for plunder is Revilla’s colleague, former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who was denied bail while accused of pocketing P183.7-million kickbacks. Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, now out on bail, is accused of receiving P172.8-million kickbacks.

Napoles meanwhile is detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

Their plunder and graft charges were filed with the Sandiganbayan by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in June 2014. JPV/rga

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TAGS: Bong Revilla, PDAF scam, Pork barrel scandal, project kickbacks
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