Lawyers’ group bucks Revilla’s acquittal

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines on Sunday prodded the Office of the Ombudsman to file a motion for reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan decision last week to acquit former Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. of plunder in the pork barrel scam.

Lawyers’ group bucks Revilla’s acquittal
Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.
IBP national president Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said that Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutors should file an appeal of the decision of the Sandiganbayan First Division, particularly its civil aspect.

While Fajardo agreed with the position of Ombudsman Samuel Martires that the acquittal of Revilla on the criminal aspect can no longer be appealed and brought to a higher court due to the rule on double jeopardy, he argued that the civil liability of the former senator could still be appealed.

Martires earlier said the prosecutors would no longer appeal the decision.

The Sandiganbayan found Revilla liable in the civil aspect when it ordered him and two other accused, his former chief of staff Richard Cambe and pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles, to return the P124.5 million to the national treasury.

But Fajardo, after reading the decision, said the amount should be P60 million higher, or P184.5 million.

“The prosecution may move for a partial reconsideration of the decision, and insist that it was able to adduce evidence showing that the accused are liable to pay P185 million as discussed in the dissenting opinion,” Fajardo said.

“Recovery of P60 million more is certainly a worthy cause that the prosecution may opt to bring this up to the Supreme Court [if the] reconsideration is denied in the Sandiganbayan,” he said.

He said that while Revilla was acquitted in the criminal charge, it does not necessarily follow that he was likewise absolved of civil liability.

He said conviction on the criminal charge requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, while a judgment of liability on the civil charge requires only a preponderance of the evidence.

“In the Revilla case, the majority acquitted Senator Revilla on the ground that the prosecution was unable to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But while the Court entertained reasonable doubt, it would seem that it was convinced that the prosecution was able to submit a preponderance of evidence that Senator Revilla must be held as equally accountable to the People of the Philippines with respect to the return of the money lost by virtue of the PDAF scam,” the IBP national president said, referring to the priority development assistance fund or pork barrel.

“The confusion of the public is most likely because the civil aspect of the judgment was not discussed with more detail in the majority decision,” Fajardo said.

Fajardo’s predecessor, former IBP national president Vicente Joyas, however, disagreed.

“He is not liable civilly because there are no findings by the Sandiganbayan that his liability is only civil and not criminal,” he said.

“The dispositive portion refers to the accused, meaning the two who were convicted [Cambe and Napoles]. It does not refer to Bong [Revilla] because of the acquittal,” he added.

Voting 3-2, the Sandiganbayan ruled that “not a single [piece of] evidence” was presented by the Office of the Ombudsman’s prosecution panel to prove that Revilla received rebates, commissions or kickbacks from the allocation of his PDAF or pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations set up by Napoles.

The magistrates who voted to acquit Revilla also gave weight to the recantation of whistle-blowers Marina Sula and Mary Arlene Baltazar.

The two testified early this year that Revilla was not aware of the forging of his signatures on various endorsement letters for the release of his PDAF to the Napoles-linked NGOs.

Sula added that it was pork scam star witness Benhur Luy who forged Revilla’s signature.

The Palace said it would not interfere with the functions of the judiciary.

“Detractors and critics of the President are quick to malign the administration thinking that it has a role in decisions deliberated upon and pronounced by courts of law. For their information, we do not,” said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo.

“As we have said, we respect the independence of the other branches, he said.

The Palace statement came after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV lambasted the Duterte administration for hailing its critics to court on trumped-charges and setting free the accused plunderers of the country.

“The justice system in the country is in reverse. The plunderers have been set free. The critics will then be given a case to put them behind bars,” Trillanes said on Friday.

The lawmaker has been ordered arrested by a Regional Trial Court in Davao City in connection with the libel complaint filed against him by Duterte’s son, former Davao Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte. His bail was set to P24,000.

The Palace denounced Trillanes as a “rabble-rouser, perennial whiner, and a false accuser.”

“[He] cries like a baby reminiscent of staging a coup and surrenders instantly even without a gun being fired from the government forces,” Panelo said, referring to several failed coup attempts that the senator had led when he was still in the military.

READ: Bong acquitted, Janet convicted

Topics: Integrated Bar of the Philippines , Office of the Ombudsman , Ramon Revilla Jr. , pork barrel scam , Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo
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