"Revilla's case is no travesty but a colorful tapestry."
Not quite a few raised an eyebrow upon hearing or reading about the acquittal of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder charges by the Sadiganbayan while it convicted pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and Richard Cambe, Revilla’s former aide.
Not quite a few rejoiced upon breaking of the welcome news that the veteran action star-turned-politician finally triumphed and was finally set free after four years in detention in connection with the alleged misuse of P224 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund, better known as “pork barrel.”
Those with whom the Sandiganbayan decision does not sit right simply would not take this sitting down. They readily raised suspicion on the anti-graft court itself, alleging the decision as a “travesty of justice.”
The yellowtards particularly were also quick to blame the Duterte administration as having a hand on the ruling, trying to rile up public disdain against it. Unfortunately, there remain the millions of loyal fans and supporters, as well as Revilla’s family, who believe he was wrongly accused.
The Sandiganbayan, in its landmark decision, explained, “For failure of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that accused Ramon “Bong” Revilla received directly or indirectly, the rebates, commissions, and kickbacks from his PDAF, the Court can not hold him liable for the crime of plunder.”
It will be recalled that Napoles’ former employees, Marina Sula, Merlina Sunas and Mary Baltazar, testified earlier that Revilla’s signatures were actually forged on the endorsement letters to a non-government agency (NGO) and request of his PDAF to the implementing agency.
Sandiganbayan’s 1st Division Judge Geraldine Faith Econg knew that the decision would likely be “unpopular” that she thought it must strongly emphasize that “the court must focus on the facts of the case and should not be swayed by popular opinion.”
Whether Revilla had direct or indirect knowledge of the misuse of his PDAF, the prosecution witnesses, Sula, Suna and Baltazar, already cleared him early on when they testified that the senator’s signatures were fake. A signature expert presented by the defense likewise, noted that Revilla’s signature and that on the PDAF documents were not the same.
Experts observed that the statements of Napoles’ helpers on Revilla’s forged signatures was the key that sent to oblivion the Ombudsman’s plunder case versus the former lawmaker.
I could not agree more with Justice Econg. Since when should the decision of the Court be based on the opinion of the public? Shouldn’t cases be resolved on the facts and evidence presented before the magistrate? Otherwise, let us just set up kangaroo courts because their decisions will always favor the public’s opinion and interests.
In the same breath, Makati Regional Trial Court 148 Judge Andres Soriano last October ruled to junk the request of the Department of Justice and defied strong public clamor for Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ arrest and return to jail for the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.
The case stemmed from President Duterte’s proclamation voiding Trillanes’ amnesty, finding it illegally granted by former President Noynoy Aquino since the mutiny leader did not comply with the requirements, one of which is admission of guilt.
Soriano ruled in favor of Trillanes, going against the will of the millions of Filipinos. Judge Soriano ruled that the coup d’ etat case versus Trillanes had long been dismissed and noted that the former Naval officer did apply for amnesty and admitted his guilt.
Although the Makati judge said Duterte’s Proclamation No. 572 had legal basis, it did not justify sending the Oakwood and The Peninsula terror to jail. Soriano based his decision on facts and not on public clamor and wishes of those in power.
The ancient adage goes, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” English jurist William Blackstone, in his seminal work in the 1760s, must mean that the evidence produced should be convincing enough to nail the accused and that the trial should be conducted in an objective manner.
Revilla’s case is no travesty but a colorful tapestry of poetic justice, served to a victim of the previous administration’s selective and vindictive justice.
The law should not be in a haste to jump to conclusions without having reasonable basis for the same, thus the acquittal of Revilla and, conversely the continued freedom of ten or so hotel mutineers.