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Bong Revilla appeals court's order to present evidence

Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., center, a popular actor accused of receiving 224 million pesos ($5.1 million) in kickbacks from a scam that allegedly diverted millions of dollars from anti-poverty and development funds allotted to lawmakers’ pet projects, is escorted by police after attending his arraignment at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in suburban Quezon City, Philippines on Thursday, June 26, 2014. AP/Aaron Favila

MANILA, Philippines — Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has urged the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to reconsider its ruling denying his bid to file a demurrer to evidence which would have sought the dismissal of his plunder case in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

In his 11-page motion for reconsideration dated December 12, Revilla, through his lawyers led by former solicitor-general Estelito Mendoza, said the court's First Division erred in its December 7 ruling denying his motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence.

“At bottom, the ruling of the Court that 'there is a need for the accused to present their evidence' requires the accused to prove his innocence, reversing the immutable right of an accused 'to be presumed innocent,'” Revilla's appeal read.

It can be remembered that during the hearing on December 7, the First Division denied in open court the motion of Revilla. First Division chairman Associate Justice Efren De La Cruz said “the court is of the view that there is a need for the accused to present evidence”.

De La Cruz then clarified that Revilla may still file his demurrer but under the risk of losing the chance to present his evidence.

The filing of a demurrer is a legal strategy usually employed by the accused to seek the dismissal of a case without having the need to present counter-evidence. The demurrer is usually filed after the prosecution rested its case.

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But under the Rules of Court, an accused must first seek the permission of the court before filing a demurrer so as not to lose his or her chance to present counter-evidence if the demurrer gets denied.

In his motion for reconsideration, Revilla maintained that the prosecution's evidence against him is “grossly and patently” inadequate in proving that he committed the elements of plunder provided under Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder Law.

Revilla reiterated that the prosecution also failed to establish the “combination or series of overt criminal acts” he supposedly committed in order to amass kickbacks or commissions from the pork scam, which based on the charge sheet filed by the ombudsman in June 2014, amounted to P224.5 million.

Revilla pointed out that the First Division, during the December 7 hearing, did not even make a categorical ruling that it found the prosecution's evidence to be sufficient enough. Instead, Revilla said, the court merely stated that there is a need for him to present his own evidence, without elaborating on its decision.

“Accused Revilla respectfully submits that the reasons elaborated in detail in his 'Motion for Leave to File Demurrer to Evidence' on why the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient merits more than a casual denial,” Revilla said.

In a short hearing Friday, the First Division gave the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution team until Monday (December 18) to file its comment on Revilla's motion for reconsideration, afterwhich, its is deemed submitted for resolution.

Revilla, together with his former aide Richard Cambe and the alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles are facing a plunder case before the First Division in connection with the alleged misuse of the former senator's Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.

Based on the information of the case, Revilla, through Cambe, received from Napoles a total of P224,512,500 in kickbacks of commissions in exchange for the allocation of his PDAF to the latter's bogus non-government organizations.

Revilla and Cambe are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City while Napoles is detained in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

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