Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. said his 90-day suspension ordered by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan over a P224-million plunder case that he is facing in connection with the pork barrel scam was only meant to harass him.
In a seven-page motion for reconsideration filed before the court on Monday afternoon, he argued that purposes of the suspension had been achieved with his detention.
“While under detention and close watch, it is unimaginable as it is impossible how Senator Revilla would still be able to intimidate or influence possible witnesses against him or to tamper with documentary evidence in his office,” the defense said.
His lawyers asked the court to reconsider and set aside a resolution granting a plea of state lawyers handling Revilla’s case to suspend him pending litigation.
Under the law (Luciano v. Mariano), the Sandiganbayan is authorized to issue a 90-day suspension on top of issuing arrest warrants provided that the court already determined that the information filed against the accused is valid.
This law aims to prevent accused public officers from exercising undue influence on possible witnesses, considering their powerful position.
Revilla’s lawyers argued that the documents and witnesses are not within or connected to his office and that government lawyers already possess the evidence they need.
They said prosecutors were able to gather these pieces of evidence without interference or prevention from the senator.
“Thus, it renders all the more futile and pointless to suspend Senator Revilla from office now when the purposes of suspension are not only unnecessary but also irrelevant. Truth be told, there could be no noble purpose for suspending Senator Revilla from office but to harass him,” Revilla’s lawyers added.
In persuading the court, Revilla reminded that he was voted by millions and that “such magnitude of trust and confidence from the electorate cannot be conveniently ignored.”
He said his suspension would deprive the public of representation in the Senate.
Also, despite the absence of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, Revilla insisted that the validity of the charges is in question.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division ordered Revilla and his chief of staff Richard Cambe’s suspension early this month, maintaining that the charges were valid as the accused were already arraigned and there is no pending motion challenging the charges.
While Revilla and Cambe have pending petitions before the Supreme Court, no temporary restraining order has been issued, the court said.
“Considering the mandatory tenor of Section 5 of [Republic Act] 7080 heretofore quoted, which matter was not disputed, and the validity of the information, the court is of the view that the imposition thereof shall take precedence over the other concerns brought forth by the accused,” it added.
Republic Act 7080 defines and punishes plunder, Section 5 of which provides that any public officer with a pending criminal prosecution in court under a valid plunder charge shall be suspended.
Revilla is one of three senators facing a plunder charge before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile have also been ordered suspended.
He is accused of amassing P224 million in kickbacks by pouring his pork barrel funds into bogus projects.
Enrile faces a P172-million plunder charge and Estrada, P183 million. Both are asking Sandiganbayan’s Third and Fifth Division, respectively, to also reconsider their suspension.
Revilla and Estrada are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City, while Enrile is staying at the PNP General Hospital pending more medical tests to determine if his plea for hospital arrest is justified.