Press Release
December 8, 2018

Dispatch from Crame No. 432:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima's reaction to the Sandiganbayan's acquittal of former Sen. Bong Revilla


I could only shake my head in utter disbelief and dismay. Yesterday was a sad moment for truth, justice and accountability.

At a time when pork barrel is making a comeback in Congress with the House giving Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's district P2.4 billion, the acquittal of former Sen. Bong Revilla by the Sandiganbayan in the Napoles PDAF Scam plunder case sends the wrong signal. With Revilla's acquittal, it now appears that legislators are not responsible for how they use their pork, even if this ends up being plundered.

What is clear is that in the determination of the liability of a lawmaker for the use of his PDAF, ignorance and negligence in how this is utilized by his own office is now a defense. The accountability and obligation of a public official on the use of public funds under his control is now rendered nugatory.

If this becomes the trend in the trial of the PDAF Scam plunder and corruption cases, certainly all Senators and Congressmen awaiting trial and judgment at the Sandiganbayan can all rest easy. They will always have their chiefs-of-staff and Napoles to blame for hoodwinking them into giving away their PDAF, without any accountability on their part. And "forged" signatures would now be a favorite defense.

I believe that based on the quoted portions thereof as reported by PDI, the opinion of Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, but unfortunately not adopted by the majority, is the more sensible, judicious and correct disposition of this landmark plunder case.

Indeed, it's unbelievable as it is ludicrous that Revilla's aide reaped the benefits of the scam in connivance with Napoles but sans Revilla. Let's also ask: was the proven fact, based on AMLC reports, that numerous deposits of more than P87 million were made in Revilla's and his family's accounts, within a time frame which jibes with Benhur Luy's ledgers, ever explained by the defense?

Associate Justice de la Cruz, and joined by the other dissenter, Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, also questioned the reliability of the document examiner's testimony. Most logical is de la Cruz's view that assuming that the signatures were forged, it is because "Revilla knew and consented to the affixing of his signature on these documents".

We will remain perplexed at this strange outcome of the judgment in Revilla's plunder case. But with Revilla's exoneration and the near impossibility of recovering what was plundered, we can all say goodbye to deterrence of plunderous proclivities among certain lawmakers and other government officials.

Under this administration, what is now patently evident is that the corrupt and big plunderers are set free, while critics are targeted and charged with fabricated accusations, and mere suspects are gunned down in broad daylight.

In the end, this is also a matter of conscience. A principal being able to bear with his conscience in sacrificing a loyal and trusted aide. And justices of the anti-graft court struggling with their own.

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