Te questions why Sandiganbayan did not accept AMLC report on Revilla plunder case

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Te questions why Sandiganbayan did not accept AMLC report on Revilla plunder case
The Sandiganbayan's First Division on Dec. 7, 2018 handed down its ruling on the plunder case against former Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.
The STAR / Boy Santos

MANILA, Philippines — Former Supreme Court spokesperson and law professor Theodore Te on Monday questioned parts of the Sandiganbayan’s ruling on the acquittal of former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. over the pork barrel scam.

On ANC’s “Early Edition,” Te pointed out: “Revilla was acquitted but [Anti-Money Laundering Council] report proved money went into his account.”

“[It is] hard for me to understand why the court would not accept that, as the very least, a circumstance because again, if you’re looking at circumstantial evidence as basis for guilt, there must be a chain of evidence,” Te added.

Last week, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division voted 3-2 to acquit Revilla, but ruled to convict his aide Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles of plunder.

It held that the court could not hold Revilla liable as the prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that he “received, directly or indirectly rebates, commission, and kickbacks from his [Priority Development Assistance Fund].”

The Sandiganbayan concluded that the AMLC report is a circumstantial evidence. The anti-graft court said that the report “is not conclusive and does not rule out the possibilities that will tend to exculpate Revilla.”

But Te argued that a circumstance could have “triggered the court to say ‘okay, look there is a red flag, there is AMLC certification, there is testimony... something that says part of this money went into his bank account.”

The law professor stressed: “This is AMLC, this is the body that we trust, we mandate to prove these things. And this is what AMLC is already saying. So it’s a bit difficult to understand why the majority would not accept that.”

READ: Revilla acquitted but ordered to 'return' P124 million in public funds

Revilla lawyer: Sandigan discussed AMLC report

In a separate interview with ANC, Ramon Esguerra, Revilla’s lawyer, argued that the court actually scrutinized the AMLC report.

Esguerra said that the court actually had a “very lengthy explanation why the AMLC report cannot be given credence to the majority [as] it has no probative value.”

The lawyer said that the AMLC “could’ve gone beyond simply summarizing deposits.”

The ruling, penned by Associate Justice Faith Geraldine Econg and was concurred with by two other justices, noted that the transactions in the report also included that of Revilla’s immediate family members.

“From the report, we could not deduce with certainty that the monies deposited to the accounts examined by the AMLC from 2006 to 2010 solely comes from accused Revilla alone,” the ruling read.

“The Court could not even draw a conclusion that the money deposited in the accounts examined came from Napoles through Cambe. Looking at the different bank and other financial transactions, the Court is uncertain if the deposits made by accused Revilla and his wife were fresh funds brought into the account or withdrawn from another account,” the Sandiganabayan added.

The dissent: Report said Revilla has unexplained wealth

Two justices—who each filed their dissenting opinion on the case—however, believe that Revilla failed to debunk the financial watchdog's findings.

Justice Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, said: “he 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.”

“As a while, 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 said.

Sandiganbayan Justice Efren de la Cruz said that Leighvon Santos, the AMLC investigator who checked the accounts of Revilla, found convincing indications that the former senator accumulated ill-gotten wealth that could be reasonably traced to the money given by Luy to Cambe.

De la Cruz, who was meant to pen the ponencia of the case but later became a dissenting justice, pointed out that the former senator failed to explain on the disparities and deposits.

“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,” De la Cruz added.

READ: Dissenting justice: Bong Revilla not naive to allow aide to act alone

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