CEBU

Nalzaro: ‘Kap amazing’ acquittal

BEFORE he was incarcerated for plunder, former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. used to host a TV show over GMA 7 entitled “Kap Amazing Stories,” which featured extraordinary human beings, animals and nature. He also had a sitcom entitled “Idol ko si Kap,” which gave him the popular moniker Kap. Bong, son of former senator Ramon Sr., also produced action movies, following his father’s footsteps along the line of the “agimat (amulet) king.”

Being in the entertainment industry, it was easy for Bong to win the senatorial elections because of his popularity. His political career was smooth-sailing until he was involved in a multi-million pork barrel scam together with other legislators in the Senate and the House of Representatives with pork barrel scam queen, Janet Lim Napoles, as their common conduit.

“Pork barrel” refers to the practice of appropriating public funds for local projects through congressional appropriation. The practice was abolished following allegations that it was a source of graft and corruption.

There were several Cebuano legislators who were also involved in that scam using their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), but their cases have never been proven or were not further investigated for political reason. Most of them were allied with the Aquino administration, that is why they escaped criminal prosecution. In the Senate, only Revilla, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada were charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan. Enrile and Estrada were allowed to post bail.

According to Section 2 of Republic Act 7080, plunder is committed when a public official who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts as described in Section 1 (d) in the aggregate amount or total value of at least P50 million. In addition, any person who participated with the said public official in the commission of plunder shall likewise be punished.

In a vote of 3-2, the Sandiganbayan first division acquitted Revilla, but convicted Napoles and the former’s chief of staff lawyer Richard Cambe. They were sentenced to life imprisonment. The anti-graft office said the prosecution failed to present and establish evidence that Bong received rebates, kickbacks and commissions from his pork barrel, which amounted to P517 million given to Napoles’ bogus and fake foundations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

The court said if there were letters of endorsements signed by Bong, his signatures were forged. Two of Napoles’s staff testified and pinpointed to their former colleagues and whistleblower, Benhur Luy, as the person who forged Revilla’s signatures. Luy, a relative and former staff of Napoles, exposed the latter’s scam. Following his expose, Luy claimed he was ordered abducted by Napoles and charged her for with kidnapping and serious illegal detention. Napoles was convicted.

Why do I call this “amazing acquittal?” Because I cannot believe that Bong is innocent of the crime. It’s okay if the amount involved was only a few thousand pesos. But it’s half a billion pesos. Don’t tell me that Bong did not account for the pork barrel funds he received. His alleged kickbacks amounted to P224 million. He was not able to explain his bank deposits in a span of a few months. He did not win the lotto jackpot.

The court ordered the accused to return the amount allegedly received as kickbacks, but it was not clear whether it includes Revilla or not. Cebuano Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, the ponente (the one who wrote the decision), said Revilla can file a motion for clarification. How come if Revilla was innocent as charged is he ordered to return the money when he did not receive anything? Did justice triumph or was there a miscarriage of justice? Pagkatoytoy ning desisyona.


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