Former Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. attended the promulgation of the ruling of his plunder case at the Sandiganbayan last December 7, 2018.
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IBP urges prosecution to pursue civil aspect of Revilla case
Kristine Joy Patag ( - December 10, 2018 - 5:57pm

MANILA, Philippines — Prosecutors should ask the Sandiganbayan to raise its supposed finding of "civil liability" against former Sen. Ramong "Bong" Revilla Jr. over misused development funds, Integrated Bar of the Philippines head Abdiel Dan Fajardo said.

Fajardo said that while the Rules of Criminal Procedure bar prosecutors from seeking the reversal of Revilla's acquittal, they may still urge the court to order the accused to return more than P124.5 million to the National Treasury.

It remains unclear whether the Sandiganbayan order includes Revilla—an accused in the case, but who was acquitted—or whether it only covers Revilla aide Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who were found guilty of plunder.

Part of the Sandiganbayan's First Division ruling read:  “In view of the discussion above, pursuant to Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, accused are held solidarily and jointly liable to return to the National Treasury the amount of P124.5 million."

Revilla, Cambe and Napoles are all accused in the case, but only Cambe and Napoles were convicted.

Ombudsman will not appeal case

Ombudsman Samuel Martires earlier stressed that the government could not appeal Revilla’s case as doing so would expose him to double jeopardy, which means having the accused answer twice of the same offense.

But Fajardo pressed: "The prosecution may appeal the civil aspect of the judgment, ie. the award of P124M in favor of the government."

“The prosecution may move for partial reconsideration of the decision and insist that it was able to adduce evidence showing that the accused are liable to pay P185M as discussed in the dissenting opinion,” Fajardo added.

Justice Efren de la Cruz, who originally meant to write the ponencia but whose opinion became part of the dissent, said that Revilla, Cambe and Napoles should be convicted and be made to pay jointly and severally P185.435 million.

“Recovery of P60M more is certainly a worthy cause that the prosecution may opt to bring up to the Supreme Court once reconsideration is denied in the Sandiganbayan,” the IBP added.

In a press briefing on Monday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who is also chief presidential legal counsel, claimed "any accused or party litigant aggrieved or is not satisfied with the decision, there are legal remedies available under the law."

He said: "They can always go to the higher courts."

Revilla lawyer: Acquitted client cannot be liable

Ramon Esguerra, Revilla’s lawyer, however argued that his client should not be ordered to “return” money to the nation’s coffers as the court already held that he could not be held liable due to the prosecution’s failure to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson and law professor Theodore Te said in an interview with ANC this morning that “the court might be saying that the act of plunder as criminal offense could not be held against Revilla, but the civil liability, the mere fact that there was money taken, was proven.”

Te also pointed out that the text of the ruling, penned by Associate Justice Faith Geraldine Econg, did not explicitly state who should return the money.

Fajardo explained: “When a person is acquitted on a criminal charge, it does not necessarily follow that he is likewise absolved of civil liability.”

“Conviction of criminal charge requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, while a judgment of liability on the civil charge requires only a preponderance of evidence,” the IBP president said.

Fajardo said that it seemed that the Sandiganbayan was convicned that there was evidence to hold Revilla’s accountability to the people of the Philippines “with respect to the return of the money lost by virtue of the PDAF scam.” — Kristine Joy Patag with The STAR/Alexis Romero

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