In a motion for execution of judgement filed on Jan. 28 and which was obtained by reporters yesterday, the ombudsman’s prosecution team maintained that Revilla’s acquittal from plunder in connection with the pork barrel fund scam does not extinguish his civil liability.
Edd Gumban
Compel Bong Revilla to pay P124.5-million liabilities, Sandiganbayan urged
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — State prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman have urged the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to issue a writ of execution that would compel former senator Ramon Revilla Jr. to pay P124.5 million in civil liability in connection with the misuse of P517 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

In a motion for execution of judgement filed on Jan. 28 and which was obtained by reporters yesterday, the ombudsman’s prosecution team maintained that Revilla’s acquittal from plunder in connection with the pork barrel fund scam does not extinguish his civil liability. 

“Courts can acquit an accused on reasonable doubt but still order payment of civil damages in the same case. That is what the majority did in the present case. They ordered Revilla civilly liable despite his acquittal,” the prosecution’s motion read.

On Dec. 7, the Sandiganbayan Special First Division voted 3-2 to acquit Revilla but convicted his co-accused Richard Cambe, his former staff member, and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles of plunder.

The court said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Revilla received rebates, commissions or kickbacks for the allocation of his PDAF to the fake non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Napoles.

In the dispositive portion of the 186-page decision, however, the court said that the “accused are solidarily and jointly liable to return” to the National Treasury P124.5 million.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, did not categorically state if Revilla would have to return money.

The court, however, said that the return of the money was pursuant to Article 100 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that “every person criminally liable for a felony is also civilly liable.”

The same law did not state whether a person cleared of criminal liability could no longer be held for civil liability.

Revilla, who is seeking a Senate comeback in the 2019 midterm elections, had earlier said that he will not return any amount to the government as he insisted the court had cleared him and that he “stole nothing” from his PDAF.

In its motion, the prosecution said that as held by the Supreme Court in a previous ruling (Nuguid vs Nicdao), “a person acquitted of a criminal charge, however, is not necessarily civilly free.” 

The prosecution argued that while the quantum of proof for a criminal liability should be “beyond reasonable doubt,” civil liability merely requires a “preponderance of evidence,” which illustrates the probability of the commission of the crime.

“As regards Revilla, while he was acquitted, the same was based merely on reasonable doubt and not due to the absolute failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt. This is why the judgement did not declare him to be without civil liability,” the prosecution said. 

“It bears stressing that Article 100 of the RPC does not provide that only those who are criminally liable are civilly liable. Thus, a person acquitted may still be held civilly liable, if there is basis to hold him/her so,” it added.

The prosecution said Revilla’s civil liability arises from his failure to ensure the proper use of his PDAF. The prosecution said Revilla’s “utter lack of concern and gross and inexcusable negligence” allowed Cambe and Napoles “to conspire with one another in consummating the crime of plunder.”

The prosecution cited in its motion at least 13 previous decisions on various cases promulgated by the First Division in 2018, wherein it categorically declared whether the acquitted accused has or has no civil liability.

“Indeed if Revilla is not civilly liable, the Dec. 7, 2018 decision would have explicitly declared it so just like in the following 2018 decisions of the First Division,” the prosecution said.

Nothing to pay

In a statement issued yesterday, Revilla’s lead counsel, former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, maintained that the dispositive portion of the court’s decision only covers Napoles and Cambe as the ones liable to return P124.5 million.

“Having held that Revilla is not criminally liable, the above paragraph would not have referred to Revilla but only to the accused who have been held criminally liable, namely: Richard A. Cambe and Janet Lim Napoles,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the more important question is how the former senator can be reparated for his detention of more than four years only to be found innocent by the court.

“How shall justice be served for the incarceration, denial of Revilla’s liberty, destruction of his reputation, anguish and pain suffered for more than four years?” Mendoza said. 

PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE FUND RAMON REVILLA JR. SANDIGANBAYAN
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