Former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile will both be declared innocent next, following the acquittal of ex-senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of the heinous crime of plunder.
This is the fear tormenting many Filipinos, as shown in angry social media posts.
The fear is well-founded if one reads the 186-page decision of the three justices who found Revilla innocent. And the anger is warranted if one studies the combined 158 pages of the dissenting opinions of the two justices who found Revilla guilty.
The three former senators were all charged with plundering their pork barrel allotments, known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). They were accused of receiving the following kickbacks: P224.5 million for Revilla; P183.79 million for Estrada; and P172.8 million for Enrile.
A common modus operandi was employed by the three men, according to witnesses. The senators conspired with Janet Lim Napoles who created 20 fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) through which their pork barrel funds were drained. The bogus NGOs had officers and stockholders who were Napoles’ secretaries, drivers, security guards, employees, friends, and family members.
Through their designated representatives, the three senators received their kickbacks in bags of cash from Napoles or her trusted aides. Revilla’s representative was his legislative staff officer, lawyer Richard Cambe.
The pieces of evidence presented in the Revilla case provide the commonalities in all the three cases because the key witnesses are the same.
Prosecution star witness Benhur Luy, cousin and trusted aide of Napoles, testified that Revilla’s pork barrel funds were shared in this manner: Revilla, 50 percent; Napoles, 32-40 percent; Cambe, 5 percent; head of the government implementing agency (IA), 2-10 percent; management fee of the IA, 3 percent. Virtually 100 percent of Revilla’s PDAF went to kickbacks and commissions.
The majority of three justices reasoned that it was “not sufficiently established” that Revilla was part of the conspiracy
and that there was no evidence that he
actually received the millions in kickbacks given to Cambe.
They ruled thus notwithstanding documents presented by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that “[b]etween 6 April 2006 and 28 April 2010, Revilla and his immediate family made numerous deposits to their various bank accounts and placed investments totaling P87,626,587.63 within 30 days from the dates mentioned in Benhur Luy’s ledger when Revilla, through Cambe, allegedly received commissions or rebates to his PDAF in cash.”
It’s astonishing that the majority was convinced that Napoles and Cambe were guilty of plunder even in the absence of evidence that they had fat bank deposits, while they acquitted Revilla even if the AMLC submitted proofs of his and his family’s large bank deposits that are inconsistent with his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.
The conclusion made by the majority—that Revilla’s signatures on the PDAF documents were forged—has so many holes including, among others, the fact that the private handwriting expert who testified was hired and compensated with P200,000 by Revilla himself, and examined mere
photocopies of the questioned signatures.
There’s a telling contrast between the two decisions. The majority decision examined each piece of strong evidence against Revilla in quarantined isolation, and poked spears of unreasonable doubt at each one. In contrast, the dissenting opinions wove together the various actors and events to complete a vividly convincing picture of how the conspirators committed plunder beyond reasonable doubt.
The majority decision paints Revilla as a strange species of politician. He authorized the release of half a billion pesos to finance his antipoverty, livelihood, and agricultural programs. Unlike other politicians, he didn’t cut project inauguration ribbons or meet the beneficiaries to cultivate loyalty and patronage. He closed his eyes for four years while Napoles and Cambe wantonly plundered public funds in his name.
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