I’m no lawyer. But is circumstantial evidence enough to garnish P224.5 million of the assets of Sen. Bong Revilla who is facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan?
Lawyer Leigh Von Santos of the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) said that deposits made in the bank accounts of Revilla were close to the dates where state witness Benhur Luy said he had made payoffs to the senator’s legislative officer, Richard Cambe, on orders of Janet Lim Napoles.
Is proximity of the dates proof positive of kickbacks? Santos, under cross examination by lawyers of Revilla, admitted that he has no proof that Janet Lim-Napoles transferred funds to Revilla. Cambe’s lawyer, Michael Ancheta, also elicited the admission of Santos that he had no bank records to support the claim that Napoles gave kickbacks to Cambe. Luy earlier said he had no personal dealings with Revilla and that he coursed the alleged kickbacks thru Cambe.
No wonder Revilla has expressed confidence that if the Sandiganbayan justices would decide his petition for bail on its merits, he would be granted provisional liberty and be able to go home to spend Christmas with his family. He contended that he could justify the deposits made in his bank accounts that were examined by the AMLC.
I wonder though if his optimism is well-placed because despite Santos’ testimony, the Ombudsman has filed a petition before the Sandiganbayan’s First Division seeking the issuance of a writ of preliminary attachment of the P224.5 million that Revilla has declared as assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the motion last October 27 to preserve Revilla’s bank accounts, real properties, shares of stocks and cars while the accused is on trial. A writ of preliminary attachment would prevent him from disposing of or hiding his assets.
Revilla is irate at this move which he considered a diversionary tactic to cover up the admission of Santos that he has no bank records on the transfer of funds from Napoles to Revilla. The Revilla camp believes that Santos’ testimony has weakened the plunder case against the senator.
“I have not been proven guilty by the Sandiganbayan and yet the lawyers of the Ombudsman are now moving heaven and earth to garnish my assets, which are the legitimate fruits of my labor as an action star of more than 20 years,” Revilla said in a press statement from his detention cell at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Revilla isn’t the only one incensed by the moves of the Ombudsman. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who’s also facing plunder charges for allegedly receiving kickbacks from so-called pork barrel queen Napoles, was equally irate. Estrada lashed at Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for opposing his move to open the bank accounts of Luy.
He has enough reason to. Recall that at the plunder case filed against him and his father, former President Joseph Estrada, Morales who was then Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, penned a decision allowing the opening of the account of JV Ejercito, who is not even a co-accused in that plunder case, just like Luy.
“She is shamelessly contradicting herself,” Estrada said. Touche!
At the same time, he expressed elation that the Sandiganbayan has ignored the Ombudsman’s objections and allowed the opening of Luy’s bank accounts. Reports said the Ombudsman will appeal the decision before the High Tribunal.
Estrada said they want Luy’s bank account to be opened to find out if public funds went to Luy’s account. He added that such a finding would validate his personal view that Luy is “the most guilty.”
“He admitted that he had forged the signatures of mayors, of my staff and local officials like municipal agriculturists. He admitted that he’s a master forger. He should be the most guilty and yet, the prosecution and the Ombudsman don’t want his accounts to be opened. That’s unfair!” Estrada said.
Oh yes, he also has some pointed remarks about the yellow ribbon committee and Senate President Franklin Drilon who’s also facing plunder charges filed by Drilon’s former consultant, Boy Mejorada. Mejorada claimed that the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center, a pet project of Drilon, was overpriced by P488 million.
Estrada challenged Sen. TG Guingona, the yellow ribbon chair, to also investigate the alleged over pricing of the ICC “to show that he is not only after the opposition but also after their [the LP and Palace allies]allies.
“He should show the same enthusiasm [he had]in investigating on the PDAF in investigating the Iloilo Convention Center so it won’t be apparent that he’s singling us,” he said.
Guingona, a Malacañang acolyte who believes that no anomaly would stain the Aquino administration, had even described a testimony against Estrada as “a buzzer-beating three-point shot that won the game.”