Manila, 8 December—Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., one of the senators charged with plunder in connection with a multi-billion scam helmed by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, has been cleared of plunder by the Sandiganbayan, while his coaccused Napoles and former aide Richard Cambe were found guilty.
Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, which involved the use of fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to channel money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations of lawmakers to fictitious projects over 10 years.
Of the senators charged with plunder in 2014, Revilla was accused to have amassed the most kickbacks at P224 million. He was also charged with 16 counts of graft by the Office of the Ombudsman under then-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Revilla’s fellow accused, former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, were accused to have pocketed P183 million and P173 million, respectively. Estrada was also charged with 11 counts of graft, while Enrile, 15 counts, for misuse of their PDAF.
Today, only four years later, all of them are out of jail.
Enrile, in his application for bail granted by the Supreme Court in August 2015, cited “advanced age and poor health”.
All of them are running for senator in the May 2019 elections. Yes, even Enrile, who cannot be in jail because of “advanced age and poor health” may run for the Senate despite “advanced age and poor health.” Huh.
Anyway. Morales, also a retired Supreme Court justice, said ahead of the decision that given the evidence gathered, she would convict Revilla. However, Sandiganbayan ponente Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg ruled differently. Econg said she “would have loved to convict” but added that they had to rule based on evidence.
And the evidence was not enough to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.