Revilla acquitted but ordered to ‘return’ P124 million in public funds
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan acquitted former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder over his involvement in the multi-billion pork barrel scam, but it ordered P124.5 million to be returned to the National Treasury.
The Sandiganbayan First Division on Friday handed down a historic ruling—the first since the pork barrel scam was revealed—on the plunder case against Revilla, his aide Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, believed to the brains behind the pork barrel scam.
Ombudsman prosecutors said Revilla, through Cambe, allegedly received from businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles a total of P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for the allocation of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to her bogus non-government organizations. The Sandiganbayan in 2015 ordered a freeze of P224 million in assets of Revilla.
In a vote of 3-2, the anti-graft court said that Revilla cannot be held liable for plunder as the prosecution failed to establish “beyond reasonable doubt” that the former senator “received, directly or indirectly the rebates, commission and kickbacks from his PDAF.”
The court, however, convicted Cambe and Napoles and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua, or imprisonment of 40 years.
“In view of the discussion above, pursuant to Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, accused are held solidarily and jointly liable to return to the National Treasury the amount of P124.5 million,” the dispositive of Econg’s ruling read.
Revilla, Cambe and Napoles are all accused in the case. It is unclear from the decision whether the three would divide the amount among themselves.
Article 100 of the RPC falls under Civil Liability. It provides: “Every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable.”
Evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt is required in criminal conviction. In civil cases, a “preponderance of the evidence” or that more convincing evidence is needed.
Part of the Sandiganbayan ruling read: “The Court fails to see the hand of Revilla guiding Cambe, Napoles and the JLN staff in the scheme to receive kickbacks or commissions from the PDAF projects.”
But Revilla’s lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, told reporters that they would contest the order.
“On top of my mind right now, if you find somebody not criminally liable, he cannot be civilly liable,” he said.
Esguerra said that Revilla’s legal team, which includes seasoned lawyer Estelito Mendoza, are discussing whether they would appeal the case.
“If he is not criminally liable, how can e be civilly liable?” he added. — Video by STAR/Beth Marcelo