‘Revilla should return P124-million PDAF’

The Philippine Star
�Revilla should return P124-million PDAF�
In a statement yesterday, former deputy speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada expressed disbelief over Revilla’s acquittal, noting that the evidence provided by the Anti-Money Laundering Council “is damning.”

MANILA, Philippines — Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. should return P124 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as ordered by the Sandiganbayan, according to former deputy speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada.

In a statement yesterday, Tañada expressed disbelief over Revilla’s acquittal, noting that the evidence provided by the Anti-Money Laundering Council “is damning.”

“It is with great disbelief that the Sandiganbayan acquitted Bong Revilla despite demanding that he return the P124 million in his bank accounts… It is with greater suspicion that he refuses to return what has proven to be stolen funds. That proves his intent to gain from his pork barrel funds. He is guilty,” the statement read.

Tañada said the amount could be used to buy four million kilos of rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) for distribution to the country’s poor families or spent on giving Filipino hospital patients free consultation, medicines and diagnostic tests.

“These are part of the outpatient benefit package of 177,143 workers who are PhilHealth members and our poor households. Under the current budget of the Universal Health Care (UHC), each patient has an allocation of P700 pesos per year for these free health services outside of the current in-patient benefits,” he pointed out.

Or, if not spent for those, Tañada said the P124 million could also be used to hire 1,703 doctors and nurses who will “look after our families in the remote areas,” adding that there are six out of 1- Filipinos dying without seeing a doctor.

“More Filipino families will be denied of the public services due them if we will not be vigilant in watching over our people’s resources,” he stressed.

Ombudsman can appeal

Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) believes that the Office of the Ombudsman may still opt to run after Revilla despite the acquittal last week.

Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo, IBP national president, said that prosecutors could still pursue the civil aspect of the case even when its criminal side could no longer be appealed because it is prohibited under the double jeopardy rule.

He explained that the Sandiganbayan has found Revilla liable in the civil aspect when it ordered him and two other accused — his staff Richard Cambe and pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles — to return P124.5 million to the national treasury.

“The prosecution may appeal the civil aspect of the judgment, i.e., the award of P124 million in favor of the government. The prosecution may move for a partial reconsideration of the decision, and insist that it was able to adduce evidence showing that the accused are liable to pay P185 million as discussed in the dissenting opinion,” he stressed.

He suggested that the “recovery of P60 million more is certainly a worthy cause that the prosecution may opt to bring up to the Supreme Court once a motion for reconsideration is denied in the Sandiganbayan.”

Fajardo agreed with Ombudsman Samuel Martires who said that the criminal aspect of the decision, particularly the acquittal of Revilla, could no longer be appealed.

“The Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that any party may appeal in a criminal case ‘unless the accused will be placed in double jeopardy.’ The right to appeal is thus also available to the People of the Philippines, but subject to the limitation that the State may not appeal a judgment of acquittal because doing so exposes the accused to double jeopardy,” he pointed out.

He added that while Revilla was acquitted in the criminal charge, it does not necessarily follow that he was also absolved of civil liability. He explained that a conviction on the criminal charge requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, while a judgment of liability on the civil charge requires only a preponderance of evidence.

“In the Revilla case, the majority acquitted Senator Revilla on the ground that the prosecution was unable to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. But while the Court entertained reasonable doubt, it would seem that it was convinced that the prosecution was able to submit a preponderance of evidence that Senator Revilla must be held as equally accountable to the People of the Philippines with respect to the return of the money lost by virtue of the PDAF scam,” he explained.

To him, the public’s confusion may have likely been caused by the fact that “the civil aspect of the judgment was not discussed with more detail in the majority decision.”

Former IBP national president Vicente Joyas disagreed though, saying there are no findings by the Sandiganbayan that “his liability is only civil and not criminal.”

“The dispositive portion refers to the accused, meaning the two who were convicted (Cambe and Napoles). It does not refer to Bong because of the acquittal,” he said.

Voting 3-2, the Sandiganbayan ruled that “not a single evidence” was presented by the Office of the Ombudsman’s prosecution panel to prove that Revilla received rebates, commissions or kickbacks from the PDAF allocation to bogus NGOS.

The magistrates who voted to acquit Revilla also gave weight to the recantation of whistle-blowers Marina Sula and Mary Arlene Baltazar who testified early this year that Revilla was not aware of the forging of his signatures on various endorsement letters for the release of his PDAF to the Napoles-linked NGOs.

Sula added that it was pork scam star witness Benhur Luy who forged Revilla’s signature.– With Edu Punay

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