THE Sandiganbayan has dismissed the last remaining graft complaints filed against Philippine Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in relation to the 2013 multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Voting 3 to 2, the anti-graft court’s Special First Division granted Revilla his demurrer to evidence, clearing the senator’s 16 counts of graft for allegedly diverting his pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles to receive kickbacks.
A demurrer is a motion to dismiss a case due to insufficient evidence presented by prosecutors. When granted, the case is considered dismissed.
“It could then be safe to conclude that the actions from which these 16 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) are based on are the same predicate acts in the charge of plunder,” the Sandiganbayan said in its resolution promulgated July 1 and released on Monday, July 5.
It noted that there was no evidence showing that Revilla received kickbacks from Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.
“The glaring absence of evidence proving that accused Revilla directly received the proceeds from the PDAF projects or any money from accused Napoles that motivated him to give her and her NGOs unwarranted benefits to the detriment of the government, cannot be ignored by this court,” the Sandiganbayan said.
“The continued lack of evidence that would prove beyond reasonable doubt accused Revilla’s involvement in these PDAF transactions leads to a conclusion not different from that reached in the plunder case,” it added.
In 2018, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Revilla of plunder over the same case.
Among the five justices making up the anti-graft court’s special division, Associate Justices Geraldine Faith A. Econg, Rafael R. Lagos, and Edgardo M. Caldona ruled to grant Revilla’s demurrer.
Meanwhile, Associate Justices Efren N. Dela Cruz and Bayani H. Jacinto dissented.
The Sandiganbayan likewise dismissed the remaining cases against Revilla’s former aide, Richard Cambe, due to his death. Cambe died of a stroke last April 8 in the New Bilibid Prison.
On the other hand, the court denied the demurrer to evidence of Napoles, pointing out that the matters she raised were “simply a rehash of the arguments she raised in her Motion to Suppress Evidence and the Motion for Reconsiderations, which were both previously resolved by this Court.”
‘Truth has come out’
In a statement posted on Facebook, Revilla welcomed the Sandiganbayan’s decision to acquit him.
“The Sandiganbayan, by granting our Demurrer to Evidence and dismissing all the charges against me, validates what we have known from the very beginning — that all the accusations against me have no basis and any leg to stand on,” he said Monday.
According to the senator, he “never have been involved in graft and corruption.”
“I am not, and never have been involved in graft and corruption. This is the reason why I did not run; I did not hide; and did not evade the judicial system. I put my trust and my life in our Courts,” said Revilla.
“The truth has come out. Now, I can move forward to serving our nation and our people even further, free of this nuisance,” he added. n