Senator Bong Revilla attends his hearing at Sandiganbayan for his graft case in relation to pork barrel scam. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA
The Sandiganbayan has dealt a blow to detained former Sen. Bong Revilla Jr., denying him permission to file a demurrer challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence in his P224.5-million plunder case.
The First Division, in an open court hearing on Thursday, said Revilla and his coaccused should rebut the Ombudsman’s evidence head on, instead of cutting the trial short by way of a demurrer.
“After considering the evidence …. the court is of the view that there is a need for the accused to present evidence,” said Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz, the division chair.
He said Revilla, as well as his chief of staff, Richard Cambe, and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, could still file demurrers within 10 days—but at the risk of losing their chance to present evidence in their defense.
Revilla’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza later told reporters: “I think the reason for this—I cannot speak for the court—is that the court denied bail on the ground that the evidence is strong.”
Mendoza said they would need to study carefully “[if] we will take a chance by just filing a demurrer or to present evidence.”
The Ombudsman’s evidence include the testimonies of whistle-blowers, including Napoles’ financial officer Benhur Luy, the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s report on Revilla’s bank transactions and the testimonies of local government officials who attested that Revilla’s pork barrel-funded projects were never implemented.
Mendoza argued that Revilla’s endorsement of dubious nongovernment organizations allegedly controlled by Napoles was not in itself a criminal act required by the plunder law for charges to prosper.
“There is no evidence that Revilla received a single peso from the P224 million of ill-gotten wealth,” he said.
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