SC junks plea of Revilla, 4 others seeking to void Ombudsman plunder raps

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday denied with finality the motion for reconsideration of former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and four others seeking to nullify the findings of probable cause by the Ombudsman that led to the filing of plunder charges against them in connection to the multi-billion pork barrel scam.

The SC affirmed its Dec. 6, 2016 decision that agreed to the findings of probable cause by the Office of the Ombudsman.

”The Court denied with finality the Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioners from the Court’s December 6, 2016 Decision,” the SC said in a statement after the en banc session on Tuesday.

Aside from Revilla and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, the petitioners charged before the Sandiganbayan were Richard Cambe, Revilla’s chief of staff; Ronald John Lim and Raymund De Asis, staff employees of Napoles.

Last Dec. 7, the high court justices voted 13-1 in favor of dismissing the petitions for lack of merit. Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. dissented while Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited from the case.

The justices also affirmed the findings of probable cause against all petitioners, and a directive for the Sandiganbayan to charge and commence/continue all necessary proceedings in these cases with deliberate dispatch.

“The Court had ruled to dismiss the petitions for lack of merit, affirm the findings of probable cause and direct the Sandiganbayan, as the trial court to commence/continue all necessary proceedings with deliberate dispatch,” the SC said.

In his petition, Revilla said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the joint resolution dated March 28, 2014 that has found probable cause to charge him with plunder.

He added that his rights to due process have been violated when the Ombudsman denied his request that he be given copies of evidence against him so he can properly air his side.

“The Ombudsman violated Senator Revilla’s fundamental Constitutional rights to due process and to confront the accusations against him. Such rights are not mere rights ‘he believed in’ but are rights that are guaranteed in the Philippine constitution,” Revilla’s pleading stated.

Revilla also argued that the Ombudsman has no basis to charge him with plunder citing the case of former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada where the anti-graft court held that in order to be held liable for the crime of plunder, it must be shown that the public officer amassed ill-gotten wealth worth at least PHP50 million.

“Indeed, the assailed resolutions do not even have a proof that Senator Revilla has the qualifying amount of PHP50 million in his possession or in his bank account, much less proof that any money that is in his possession has been acquired unlawfully,” the petition stated.

The former lawmaker is accused of diverting his pork barrel allocations into fake non-government organizations established by businesswoman and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for hefty kickbacks.

Revilla’s co-accused former Senator Jinggoy Estrada is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame while former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was allowed by the SC to post bail in August last year for humanitarian considerations. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/