SC affirms Sandiganbayan resolutions on PDAF raps vs. Revilla

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the petitions filed by detained former senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., his chief of staff Richard Cambe, and Janet Lim Napoles seeking to reverse the Sandiganbayan resolutions regarding the PHP224.5-million plunder cases filed against them over the pork barrel scam.

In a media briefer released Tuesday, the High Court dismissed all the petitions for lack of merit and affirmed the anti-graft court's resolutions.

The SC said there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan in issuing a writ of preliminary attachment over PHP224,512,500 in monies and properties owned by Revilla and his wife since the requisites for the issuance have been complied with.

In so denying the petitions, the Court expressly stated that this Decision does not touch upon the guilt or innocence of the accused, the High Court said.

The amount is the same amount subject of the plunder case.

The High Court also upheld the Sandiganbayan's denial of Cambe and Napoles' respective bail pleas.

Revilla filed a similar petition challenging his bail plea denial but later withdrew the pleading.

The Sandiganbayan held that the prosecution duly established with strong evidence that Revilla, Cambe, and Napoles in conspiracy with one another, committed the offense of plunder and, thus, are not entitled to the constitutional right to bail, the SC said.

As for Napoles, the SC said it considered a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council stating that she controlled the non-governmental organizations involved in the scam.

The Court found that the Sandiganbayan considered the entire record of evidence in finding strong evidence of guilt, indicative of lack of grave abuse of discretion, the SC said.

It also said it was unwilling to overturn the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan, absent any showing of grave abuse of discretion which, in this case, the Court did not find.

The Court also upheld the trial court's assessment of the credibility of witnesses as it is the trial court that had the opportunity to listen to and observe the witnesses and, as its findings and assessments are entitled to great weight, sometimes even finality.

The SC also denied the Ombudsman's plea for the transfer of Revilla and Cambe's physical custody to a facility operated by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), a motion that was earlier denied by the Sandiganbayan.

The Sandiganbayan junked the transfer plea as it found no justifiable ground for the transfer.

"On this point, the Court noted that the Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion as the PNP Custodial Center is considered a jail and there is nothing in the law or rules that provide that the accused must be confined in a BJMP facility," the court said.

Revilla is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for his alleged involvement in the multi-billion-peso anomaly involving legislators' Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), or pork barrel funds, which were supposedly misappropriated under the direction of businesswoman Napoles.

Of the three former lawmakers charged in the pork barrel fund scam, Revilla is the only one left in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Revilla, together with former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and former senator Jinggoy Estrada have been charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense, along with alleged brains of the pork barrel scam Napoles. All three were detained in 2014.

However, both Enrile and Estrada were able to post bail for their temporary liberty. In 2015, the High Court allowed Enrile to post bail for humanitarian reasons due to his "advanced age and poor health," while Estrada was allowed by the Sandiganbayan special fifth division to post bail in September 2017. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency