Former Sen. Ramon Bong Revilla all smiles as he leaves Sandiganbayan on the morning of Dec. 7, 2018.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Dissenting justice: Bong Revilla not naive to allow aide to act alone
Kristine Joy Patag (philstar.com) - December 7, 2018 - 4:49pm

MANILA, Philippines — In acquitting former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder, the Sandiganbayan held that the prosecution failed to pin the former senator's guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.” For Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, Revilla only met evidence against him “with nothing more than either denial or silence.”

On Friday, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Revilla from plunder charges for the misuse of over P224.5 million worth of public funds.

The case was originally raffled off to the Sandigabayan’s First Division, and De la Cruz—who just two days ago faced the Judicial and Bar Council in his bid to become a Supreme Court justice—originally wrote the ponencia of the case.

The STAR earlier reported that a special division of five members were convened after three regular members of the First Division failed to arrive at a unanimous decision.

Associate Justice Faith Econg eventually wrote the main ruling on Revilla’s case.

Forgery

Central to the anti-graft court’s ruling was the testimony of lawyer Desiderio Pagui, a retired document examiner from the National Bureau of Investigation, on the authenticity of the former senator’s signatures on indorsement letters and a letter to the Commission on Audit were forged.

“A comparison between the questioned document and the standard signatures would show that there are significant differences between the standard signatures and the questioned signatures as found in the indorsement letters and the purported letter of Revilla to COA Assistant Commissioner Cuenco,” Econg’s 186-page ruling read.

“Atty. Pagui affirmed that the subject signatures could not have been made by the same person,” the Sandiganbayan also said, stressing that the “factual finding that the purported signature of the accused Revilla is a forgery constitutes a great blow to the prosecution.”

But De la Cruz pointed out that Pagui's examination of the signatures in open court “in just few minutes” is “inconsistent to his testimony that as a matter of practice in the NBI, it would take one or two days to examine just one signature.

“Forgery cannot be presumed. It must be proved by clear, positive and convincing evidence,” De la Cruz added.

Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, who also filed her dissenting opinion, said that the anti-graft court giving much credence to the forgery defense comes with a “great fault.”

“This consequential ruin runs deep, and may eventually free a man once accused of having conspired in raiding the public treasury to hundreds of millions,” she added.

Revilla’s involvement

The Sandiganbayan also ruled while “certain sums of the money” of alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles came from Revilla’s PDAF, it was not established whether the sums received by Richard Cambe for Revilla was received by the former senator.

“The fact that these sums received by Cambe for Revilla was received by the latter is just a mere possibility. On the other hand, the opposite scenario that the monies received by Cambe was not given to Revilla but was kept by him is also a possibility,” the court said.

But De la Cruz reminded: “Cambe’s participation proceeded from Revilla’s order and authority. The nomenclature of the position Cambe was occupying in the office of Revilla is immaterial.”

“What matters is that he was designated by Revilla to represent him in the transaction and Cambe willingly did perform a sizable role in the furtherance of the conspiracy,” De la Cruz also said.

He added: “Revilla is a seasoned senator. He is not naive to allow Napoles and Cambe to solely steer the course of a PDAF.”

In the end, the court deemed that Revilla could not be held liable because the prosecution failed to prove Revilla's guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.”

The senator may walk free this Friday afternoon.

BONG REVILLA PDAF SCAM SANDIGANBAYAN
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