MANILA, Philippines — A Sandiganbayan judge underscored on Friday the difference between being acquitted and being not guilty, in reference to the plunder case of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr.
According to Sandiganbayan First Division Associate Judge Geraldine Faith Econg, the decision she penned never said that Revilla was ‘not guilty’, because there is still a ‘reasonable doubt’ to his involvement in the pork barrel scam.
“Alam niyo, basahin niyo, hindi ko naman sinabi na hindi siya guilty […] Sana maintindihan lang ng tao kung ano ang bases (ng ruling),” Econg said.
“The standard is proof beyond reasonable doubt. Ilan ba ang ating measures? ‘Pag civil (case), it’s just which what (evidence) is heavier? […] The evidence presented by the prosecution did not exclude the possibilities that he did not commit a crime,” she explained.
Using ‘acquitted’ instead of ‘not guilty’ provides a huge difference in the appreciation of the case against Revilla.
A ‘not guilty’ verdict means that the accused is definitely innocent from the cases hurled against him or her, whereas an ‘acquittal’ merely says that there was a failure to prove an accused is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
And in the 186-page decision, Econg said that the prosecution failed to prove that Revilla committed plunder when he allocated P224 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-government organizations owned by pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
The court also banked on the testimony of Napoles’ former employees, who said that state witness Benhur Luy — Napoles’ right-hand man in operating her companies — forged the signatures of Revilla.
In addition to that, Napoles employee Marina Sula’s confession that she was being coached by the prosecution to testify against Revilla was also used.
Earlier, Econg, however, admitted that she would have preferred to convict Revilla, but she took into consideration the pieces of evidence that were presented.
“Yes, I know it’s unpopular. I would have loved to be a heroine, that I convicted him. But at the end of the day, I’m bound to rule based on the pieces of evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defense,” she said.
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