Taking us for fools
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - December 14, 2018 - 12:00am

I like it better in Tagalog: Ginagago na nila tayo. The Sandiganbayan, supposedly our anti-graft court, has allowed a senator who looks guilty as hell to go scot free.

Why should I write about this in this paper’s business section? Because investors want a judicial system that can be trusted. That decision fails that test.

Reading the text of the decision gave me a headache. The arguments used by the justices seem too tortuous and incredible as to defy simple logic.

How can the justices say there was failure to establish beyond reasonable doubt that he “received, directly or indirectly rebates, commission, and kickbacks from his [Priority Development Assistance Fund].” Mahirap makita ang katotohanan sa nag bubulag-bulagan!

I understand the difference between guilt beyond reasonable doubt and preponderance of evidence. I just cannot understand why the smoking gun presented by the AMLC was totally disregarded by the justices.

Simply put, even if the former senator claims his signature was forged on the pork fund documents signed by his chief of staff, unexplained money was found in his accounts at around the same time.

Indeed, the justices ordered the accused to return funds to the National Treasury, but the former senator’s lawyers insist he is not included in that order because he has been absolved.

Incredible! At this rate, future senators and congressmen will be emboldened to plunder our National Treasury because there is no punishment. A lowly clerk ends up in jail for being short a few hundred pesos, but if you get involved in a multi million peso mess, you are home free.

How can the justices say the AMLC report “is not conclusive and does not rule out the possibilities that will tend to exculpate Revilla.”

The AMLC report, at the very least, raised the possibility of unexplained wealth on the part of the senator. How did so much money get into his account at about the same time the Napoles ledger indicated some payoffs were made to the senator’s chief of staff?

The AMLC said it is also important to note that Revilla did not declare any cash on hand or deposit in banks in his SALN in 2006. According to the AMLC, it is also noteworthy that Revilla terminated his investments and bank accounts “immediately before and after the PDAF scandal circulated in the media.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, said:  “the accused never even  attempted to  debunk the findings of AMLC in his own defense. He simply wallowed in his own defense of denial and forgery.”

The justice said that the AMLC report relied on ledgers of Benhur Luy—former aide of Napoles—which was substantiated by whistleblowers’ affidavits “to strategically pinpoint, like a compass, the accumulation of cash of Sen. Revilla…

“… the unexplained wealth of Sen. Revilla is one glaring fact, left unrefuted to gloss over. If this should not be considered as the end-all to the PDAF conspiracy, where should this lead to instead?” Estoesta asked.

It is incredible that the majority court decision expressed uncertainty if the deposits made by accused Revilla and his wife were fresh funds brought into the account or withdrawn from another account.

Sandiganbayan Justice Efren de la Cruz, the other dissenting justice said that “the court cannot engage in guesswork and conjecture that Revilla was monetarily capable to make such deposits and investments out of his income from being a senator, producer and actor. He did not present an iota of evidence of his financial capacity.”

According to the AMLC, the senator and his family made deposits and placed investments within 30 days from the dates stated by an assistant of Napoles in his ledger.

AMLC noted that the interval between the receipt and initial deposit of cash is an integral indication of a money laundering scheme since the money, which is in cash, is still close to its alleged illegal origins.

On Aug. 10, 2007, for example, the ledger of Luy, claimed that the senator, through Richard Cambe, his chief of staff, received P3 million in kickbacks.

On Aug. 13, 2007, or just three days after the alleged receipt of Cambe of the money, P2 million in cash was deposited to Revilla’s Metropolitan Bank account.

On the same day, a P1 million investment management account placement was also made in the senator’s Chinatrust account.

On Oct. 6, 2009, Luy’s ledger showed that Revilla allegedly received a total of P20 million in three tranches -- P9 million, P9 million, and P2 million.

By Oct. 27, 2009, or 21 days after the alleged receipt of the money, a total of P17.7 million in cash was deposited in Revilla’s RCBC and AUB accounts in six tranches.

Coincidences? But the AMLC presented enough details to make any reasonable person doubt the possibility of mere coincidences.

The details are in the decisions and the dissenting opinions. Follow the money! Indeed, there are enough pieces of evidence to show where the money went.

The analogy of the wallet was used by an observer. Let me use it, too, but with some modifications to make the message clearer:

Your aide mistakenly took the wallet of your associate and placed it in your bag. When you discover the mistake, will you keep quiet and use the money or return the money to the rightful owner?

Assuming Cambe deposited the funds in the senator’s account without his knowledge and signature, once he learns about the big deposit, shouldn’t he say there is a mistake and prepare to return it?

Now his lawyers are saying he doesn’t even have to return anything because he was absolved. Hay naku. Ginagago na talaga tayo. Pero marami naman ang nagpapauto.

Conscience has gone out of style.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco.

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