Revilla acquitted as Napoles and former aide convicted for PDAF plunder charges

Former Philippine Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla is all smiles as he leaves the Sandiganbayan on Friday, Dec. 7 after being acquitted of plunder charges. photo by Michael Varcas

SANDIGANBAYAN First Division on Friday, December 7 acquitted former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder while his former chief of staff Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles were convicted of the same charge.

The anti-graft court ruled through a majority vote that the former senator is not guilty of a total of P224.5 million worth of kickbacks through the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

However, he still has a pending 16 counts of graft, for which he posted bail.

“For failure of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that accused Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla, Jr. received, directly, or indirectly the rebates, commission, and kickbacks from his PDAF, the Court cannot hold him liable for the crime of plunder. Accordingly, he is acquitted,” the decision stated.

Cambe and Napoles — who has been tagged as the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind — were sentenced with reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of 20 to 40 years. They are also disqualified to run for public office perpetually.

“Accused are held solidarily and jointly liable to return to the National Treasury the amount of one hundred twenty-four million, five hundred thousand pesos (P 124,500,000.00),” the decision added.

Through legal counsel Ramon Esguerra, Revilla’s camp said it plans to issue an appeal since it is illogical for the former senator to return the amount when he was found to have no criminal liability.

According to reports, five votes were cast to decide on the verdict: Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg, Edgardo Caldona, and Georgina Hidalgo voted for Revilla’s acquittal, while Justices Efren de la Cruz and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta dissented.

“It is an unpopular decision. I would have loved to be a heroine, that I convicted him, but at the end of the day we are bound by evidence,” Econg said.

Four years have passed since the Office of the Ombudsman filed the case against Revilla and co-accused former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.

All three were initially imprisoned at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame. However, Enrile and Estrada were allowed by the Sandiganbayan to post bail. The 94-year-old Enrile cited old age in the said anti-graft court, while Estrada was set free because he did not appear to be the main plunderer.

Revilla has filed his candidacy for senator in 2019.

Cambe, who had been detained at the PNP Custodial Center, will be jailed at the New Bilibid Prison. Napoles will stay at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong. 

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