Former Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr. and his immediate family made numerous deposits to various bank accounts and made investments worth P87.6 million within 30 days and yet no explanation was made about the source of the money, two Sandiganbayan justices said in their separate dissenting opinions.
Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Efren De la Cruz, First Division chairperson and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta said Revilla remained silent on the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) that the former senator and his family made a total of P87,626,587.63 deposit from April 6, 2006 to April 28, 2018.
Both Justices pointed out that the dates corresponding to the deposits were mentioned in the ledger of government witness Benhur Luy who indicated that Revilla received commissions through his chief of staff, Atty. Richard Cambe from Janet Lim-Napoles.
De la Cruz said Revilla did not give an explanation as to how he and his family managed to make deposits worth P87.6 million in only 30 days.
“The Court cannot engage in guesswork and conjecture that Revilla was monetarily capable to make such deposits and investments out of his income from being a senator, producer and actor. He did not present an iota of evidence of his financial capacity,” De la Cruz said.
“Revilla met the evidence against him with nothing more than either denial or silence,” he added.
Estoesta, in her separate dissenting opinion said Revilla, in his SALN for 2006 did not declare any cash on hand or deposit in banks while in 2007 declared only a total of P3.3-million cash deposits.
However, Estoesta said the majority of the justices who voted for the acquittal said the AMLC report was “not conclusive” for its failure to indicate whether the accounts it has examined solely came from Revilla or if those are “fresh funds” or withdrawn from another account.
“Point is, this was never the concern of Senator Revilla. The accused never even attempted to debunk the findings of AMLC in his own defense. He simply wallowed in his own defense of denial and forgery,” Estoesta said.
She then asked “why would the majority opinion now take the cudgels for him?”
Last Friday, the Anti-Graft Court issued a verdict acquitting Revilla but convicting Cambe and Janet Lim-Napoles of plunder.
Estoesta and De la Cruz said Revilla should have been convicted along with Cambe and Napoles because they conspired to divert funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
De la Cruz said with the numerous communications between Revilla’s office, the Commission on Audit and the supposed NGOs, it would be improbable for Revilla not to know about it.
“Revilla is a seasoned senator. He is not naive to allow Napoles and Cambe to solely steer the course of a PDAF,” he said.
He added that PDAF was a fund allocated to Revilla by virtue of his office thus Napoles or Cambe cannot dip their hands into it by themselves.
“They needed Revilla,” De la Cruz said.
“Revilla’s designation of Cambe as his authorized representative further proves the prosecution’s contention that Cambe operated under Revilla’s authority, and Revilla was all over the scam scene, although he remained in the shadow,” Dela Cruz said.
“Conspiracy only thrives in secrecy. The PDAF scheme would have gone undetected, absent any positive act to admit to its commission, had it not been detected for the miscalculated slip committed by the grand designer which cut loose one tongue, then another, until all there is to know had been revealed,” Estoesta added.
In the dispositive portion of the main decision, the Sandiganbayan orders the accused to return P124.5 million to national coffers. The main ruling did not offer an explanation how the court arrived at the amount nor specify who will pay “solidarily and jointly.”
Estoesta said she found it odd that “while the majority opinion thrived on speculating whether the ‘various sums of money deposited in the accounts of Revilla as found by the AMLC are the very same money from Napoles,’ it did not extricate Senator Revilla from the civil liability found for all accused in the [re-computed] amount of P124. 5 million which they should answer for in a joint and several capacity.”
“It only goes to say therefore, that since all three accused were made to answer for the same civil liability, the source of the accumulation of wealth as found in the criminal liability should only be the same,” she added.
Estoesta and Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo were the additional justices when a special division of five was created.
Original members of the Sandiganbayan First Division are De la Cruz, Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg who wrote the decision and Edgardo Caldona. Of the five justices, it is only De La Cruz who was already at the Sandiganbayan since the case was filed by the Ombudsman in 2014. /muf
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