When asked on his plans for the 2016 elections, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Wednesday said he wanted to run for President but not before clearing his name first of corruption charges that landed him in jail.
Revilla is detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon City over a P224-million plunder case and 16 counts of graft before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund scam.
He was in court on Wednesday for a scheduled pre-trial.
“I don’t know yet I’m at a loss,” Revilla said, when asked about his plans in next year’s polls.
He had been told that the filing of certificates of candidacy (COC) for the 2016 elections–October 12 to 16–is nearing.
But when asked for a categorical answer on whether he will indeed run for President, Revilla said, “Antayin natin sa tamang panahon [Let us wait for the right time].”
He was one of three senators against whom the Office of the Ombudsman filed plunder and graft charges last year for allegedly receiving millions in kickbacks by pouring their PDAF allocation to non-government organizations (NGOs) allegedly run by Janet Lim-Napoles for allegedly “ghost” projects.
The other two were Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
Earlier in Wenesday’s interview, Revilla said, “[A]s of now I want to clear my name [first]. Siyempre ‘yun ang pinakamahalaga e dahil ‘yung pangalan na iningatan natin nang napakahabang panahon e sinira na lamang nang ganung kabilis so ang gusto natin ma-clear ‘yung pangalan natin [Of course that is the most important because the name that we preserved for so long was tarnished just like that so what we want is for our name to be cleared].”
“[What is important now is for the truth to come out, that I clear my name, that is the most important, and I am not losing hope],” he added.
The anti-graft court’s First Division deferred Wednesday’s scheduled pre-trial and set additional dates for preliminary conferences on Wednesdays and Fridays starting this Friday for the parties to finish marking their evidence.
“Let the pre-trial this morning be canceled and reset on… February 4 [next year]to enable the parties to complete the pre-marking of their exhibits and the comparison of the copies against the originals,” said Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz, who leads the court’s First Division.
“[Pity that our trial proper will face a bit of delay again. I have been detained for one year and three months, but that is life. God is merciful],” Revilla said.
The pre-trial was scheduled for last May but it did not push through as the parties failed to finish the marking of evidence that they intended to present during the pre-trial, prompting the court to reset it to September 30.
Last May, Revilla said there is no law prohibiting a detainee from running for public office and that he was keeping his options open when asked if he will run for Vice President or President.
“Even if I am detained, because I know my conscience is clear and the truth will eventually come out, I am ready but at the right time,” he added.
“[I]f you are guilty, you will no longer think of running. But if your conscience is clear, you have nothing to be afraid of, but let us just wait, the filing of candidacy is until October,” Revilla said.
Aside from him, also facing the plunder charge is his former aide Richard Cambe, businesswoman Napoles as well as her nephew Ronald John Lim and employee John Raymund de Asis.
Cambe is detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Alleged pork barrel scam brains Napoles is serving a life sentence at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) after a Makati City court found her guilty in the serious illegal detention case filed by her former-employee-turned-witness Benhur Luy, also her second cousin.
Lim and de Asis remain at large.
A pre-trial conference aims to consider matters for a fair and expeditious trial.
Such matters include plea bargaining, stipulation of facts, marking for identification of evidence of the parties, waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence and modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense.