Palace respects Revilla acquittal in plunder case

Former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. is acquitted by the Sandiganbayan on charges of plunder in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam case. Public prosecutors had accused the actor-turned-politician of embezzling P224 million in discretionary funds while he was still senator. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Malacañang on Friday said it respects the decision of the Sandiganbayan acquitting former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder.

“The judiciary has performed its constitutional duty of dispensing justice. While justice grinds so slow most of the time, it does grind, and when it stops it renders a verdict that is exacting immutable,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.

“Regardless of the sentiments to the contrary, we have to bow down to the judgement of the Sandiganbayan. We have consistently respected the independence of the Judiciary and we will continue to do so in this case as we implement the final orders of the anti-graft court on the matter.”

Two of Revilla’s co-accused, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and Revilla’s former chief-of-staff Richard Cambe, were found guilty of plunder by the anti-graft court over the P10-billion scam. 

Panelo noted that the parties aggrieved by the court decision “may still pursue remedies available under our procedural laws.”

“In any event, this administration takes stock of the lessons learned from cases involving unconstitutional discretionary funds and has implemented measures to ensure the integrity of the national budget and its proper utilization for our people,” he said.

Three Sandiganbayan justices voted in favor of Revilla’s acquittal, including Geraldine Econg, Edgardo Caldona, and Georgina Hidalgo.

Justices Efren de la Cruz and Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, meanwhile, dissented. 

Revilla, along with former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, were accused of receiving kickbacks from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Napoles in exchange for funneling part of their discretionary funds to bogus non-government organizations. 

The prosecution had accused the actor-turned-politician of embezzling P224 million in discretionary funds while he was still senator. He, however, is still facing separate PDAF graft cases. 

Prosecutor Mariter Santos said they were disappointed with the acquittal of Revilla, while Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano said they will study their next course of action.

An Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report earlier said the bank deposits and investments made by Revilla, his wife Cavite Representative Lani Mercado, and their children amounted to P87,626,587.63 from April 6, 2006 to April 28, 2010. 

This was the same period that pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy indicated in his ledger that Revilla received commissions or rebates from his transactions with Janet Napoles involving his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

The former action star has been detained at the Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since 2014, while Napoles has been detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa. 

Revilla has repeatedly denied accusations that he misused his congressional allocation.

“I never received money from Janet Lim Napoles at sa mga kasamahan niya (and her colleagues),” Revilla said during one of the hearings of his plunder case.

The country’s former top graft buster Conchita Carpio Morales earlier said Revilla should be convicted of plunder over his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso racket.

“Given the evidence the office gathered, if I were a judge, I would convict him. Period,” she said in statement released Thursday.

Revilla is seeking to return to the Senate in next year’s midterm elections along with Estrada and Enrile.