Former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. is asking permission from the Sandiganbayan’s First Division to file a demurrer to evidence in the P224-million plunder case he is facing along with several other individuals in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
The trial started in June and the prosecution finished presenting its evidence in October.
The prosecution filed its 406-page formal Offer of Evidence on October 23.
“Since in the prosecution’s ‘Offer of Evidence,’ no particular evidence was offered, nor any testimony presented for the purpose of particularly showing the ‘overt criminal acts’ constituting a ‘combination or series’ through which the alleged ill-gotten wealth of accused Revilla in the amount of P224,512,500.00 was acquired, the dismissal of the case may peremptorily follow,” the defense argued in a motion filed on November 28.
“It would be expected that, as stated by the court in its ‘resolution’ denying bail to accused Revilla that ‘the merits [of the case]are to be determined only after a full-blown trial’, that at the trial proper the prosecution would be presenting evidence which would overcome the ‘presumption of innocence’ by presenting evidence constituting proof beyond reasonable doubt, that accused Revilla has committed all the elements of the offense of plunder as provided in the law and charged in the information. That the evidence presented by the prosecution, both documentary and testimonial, glaringly fails to do this is what is beyond reasonable doubt,” it said.
Information refers to charge sheet.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss in which a case is submitted for judgment based only on the prosecution’s evidence that the defense believes does not warrant conviction.
If a demurrer to evidence is denied, the defense would have to take its turn to present its evidence.
“No evidence has been presented by the prosecution of any amount allegedly received by Revilla by way of ‘kickbacks’ or ‘commissions’ allegedly ‘from Napoles or any of her representatives,’” the defense said, referring to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged brains of the pork barrel scam.
“What is clearly evident, even as the prosecution was presenting its evidence, rather than buttressing and filling up the inadequacies of the evidence presented at the bail hearing, understandably because such proceedings are summary in character, have instead confirmed the gross and patent inadequacy of the evidence that Revilla has committed all the elements of plunder as provided by [Republic Act] 7080 and alleged in the information, meriting the peremptory dismissal of the instant case,” it added in part.
Republic Act (RA) 7080 is the law that defines and punishes plunder.
The threshold amount for plunder is P50 million.
In a ruling dated November 9, the Sandiganbayan admitted all the pieces of evidence offered by the prosecution “which will be considered in the evaluation of the evidence in the decision of the case on the merits.”
Two of Revilla’s co-accused–his former aide Richard Cambe and Napoles–are also asking the court’s permission to file demurrers to evidence.
In a motion filed on November 24, Napoles’s camp said in part that “it was accused Napoles, a private individual, who was alleged to have unjustly enriched herself in conspiracy and with the assistance of the [then-]public officers charged herein… In the case of plunder, it must be shown that the public officer was principally and ultimately benefited or enriched. Obviously, the information failed to specify who is the main plunderer in this case. Hence, on this point the plunder charge against accused Napoles should be dismissed.”
In a motion also filed on November 24, Cambe said in part that “[w]ith the indulgence of this honorable court, the accused seeks leave of court to file a demurrer to evidence on the ground that the evidence presented by the prosecution is not sufficient to warrant a conviction of guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
Cambe also said in part that he “has no hand in the implementation of PDAF projects that allegedly was the factor that made his co-accused [to]allegedly amass and accumulate ill-gotten wealth.”
Revilla is one of three former senators–the other two are Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada–whom the Office of the Ombudsman charged along with Napoles and other individuals before the Sandiganbayan in 2014 in connection with the PDAF scam.
The Ombudsman filed the P224-million plunder case and 16 counts of graft against Revilla; a P183-million plunder case and 11 counts of graft against Estrada; and a P172-million plunder case and 15 counts of graft against Enrile.
Revilla is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
On September 16, Estrada was released from detention after the Sandiganbayan’s Special Fifth Division, voting 3-2, allowed him to post bail over the plunder case.
Enrile is out on bail after the Supreme Court granted his bail petition on humanitarian grounds in 2015.
The cases filed against him are pending before the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division.
Napoles is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.