Sandigan denies Revilla, Napoles bail petitions

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., his former chief of staff Richard Cambe and alleged pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles will be spending Christmas and New Year in jail after the Sandiganbayan denied their petitions for bail.

The anti-graft court, in a 71-page decision issued yesterday, denied their separate petitions for bail, which means that the three accused will have to stay detained while undergoing trial for plunder.

Revilla, expressing disappointment, accepted the anti-graft court’s ruling but said his fight is far from over.

Raymond Fortun, Revilla’s lawyer and spokesman, said the decision would definitely be appealed through a motion for reconsideration.

Napoles, through her lawyer Stephen David, said she will also appeal the decision and will even consider elevating the matter to the Supreme Court through a petition for certiorari if necessary.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said he is saddened by the Sandiganbayan First Division decision denying bail to Revilla who, like him, is facing trial for plunder for alleged involvement in the pork barrel fund scam.

Estrada also expressed concern that the ruling by the anti-graft court’s First Division would affect his own motion for bail being heard by the Fifth Division, but expressed hope that it will not.

The Sandiganbayan junked the petitions for bail of Revilla, Napoles and Cambe after four months of hearing evidence from both the prosecution and the defense panels.

Ombudsman lawyers presented witnesses led by pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy, who testified on his alleged personal knowledge as a former employee of Napoles’ JLN Corp.

Prosecutors led by Joefferson Toribio also placed other whistle-blowers, an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) official, a National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agent and a Commission on Audit (COA) official on the stand to prove that there is enough evidence to deny Revilla, Cambe and Napoles bail.

The defense, on the other hand, presented a lone witness, a handwriting expert, who testified that Revilla’s alleged signatures in documents linking him to the alleged misuse of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) allocations were forgeries.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan declared that there is sufficient basis to continue denial of bail.

“In fine, the prosecution has duly established that there exists strong evidence that accused Revilla, Cambe and Napoles, in conspiracy with one another, committed the capital offense of plunder defined and penalized under RA 7080 (Plunder Law), and thus are not entitled to the constitutional right to bail,” said Associate Justices Efren de la Cruz, Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos of the anti-graft court’s First Division.

The magistrates, however, pointed out that the decision on the bail petitions is distinct from what the final verdict would be after trial.

Revilla, who earlier told The STAR that he is surrendering everything to God and will accept whatever the decision would be, said the denial of his bail petition is a temporary setback.

“Of course we’re very disappointed. It was not the outcome we were expecting especially when we consider the facts and the evidence,” he said in a statement.

Revilla and Estrada and Cambe are currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Another co-accused in the plunder case, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, is under hospital detention at the PNP Hospital also in Camp Crame.

Napoles is detained at the female ward of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.

The Office of the Ombudsman took pride over the Sandiganbayan statement that the “prosecution has so far strongly proven the amount of P103 million” was “plundered by accused Revilla and or Cambe.”

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales welcomed the development and commended the efforts of the prosecution team handling the Revilla case headed by Toribio.

She also cited the Sandiganbayan’s efficient case management in speedily resolving the bail petitions.

Meanwhile, at yesterday’s bail hearing for Estrada, Luy admitted on cross-examination that he did not actually witness the supposed delivery of alleged kickbacks or commissions to Estrada.

He said he does not have any personal knowledge if indeed the alleged kickbacks or commissions were delivered to Estrada as he only dealt with Napoles or Pauline Labayen, a member of the senator’s staff, or actor Matt Ranillo and his wife Lynn.

On questioning by Estrada defense counsel Sabino Acut Jr., Luy also said that Labayen did not have any special power of authority or authorization from Estrada to receive money on his behalf.

He also said he also does not have any proof to show that the money supposedly given to Estrada through Napoles or Labayen came from his PDAF.



ERRATUM: The photo on the front page of The STAR yesterday wrongly identified Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario as Albert Romulo. Our apologies to both Secretary Del Rosario and his predecessor, Alberto Romulo.

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