July 17, 2018, 7:04 pm
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No easy way out for Revilla

FORMER Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. lost an avenue for a quick resolution of his P224.5 million plunder case after the Sandiganbayan First Division yesterday denied his request for leave to file demurrer to evidence.

In open court, Associate Justice and division chairman Efren Dela Cruz after, consulting with Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Reynaldo Cruz, ruled to deny the defense request, saying the court sees “a need for the accused to present evidence.”

A demurrer to evidence is a challenge to the sufficiency of evidence presented to support the criminal offense charged. If granted, it will mean an outright acquittal.

Also covered by the Sandigabayan ruling were Revilla’s co-accused Janet Lim Napoles and his former staff, Richard Cambe.

The adverse ruling means Revilla now has the choice of trying to slug it out in a drawn-out trial by presenting his own evidence to refute the government’s case or to risk filing a demurrer to evidence without leave of court.

While the second option might offer a faster conclusion, it could also result in an outright conviction on the capital offense in the event that the Sandiganbayan upholds the strength of the prosecution’s evidence against him.

Revilla also failed to secure a favorable ruling on his request to be released on bail based on the argument of his legal team that the evidence against him is not sufficient to overcome presumption of innocence on allegations that he amassed millions siphoned from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations.

Revilla is the only one of three former senators still in detention after two other colleagues, former Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, were allowed to post bail by the other divisions on findings that the plunder cases did not identify them as the principal beneficiary of the questioned PDAF transactions.

Estelito Mendoza, counsel for the former senator, said he will sit down with other members of Revilla’s legal team to consider the next moves available for them.

“Under the rules, we have the option of just filing a demurrer. That means we will waive the presentation of evidence. We have to study that carefully. We will take a chance by just filing a demurrer or to present evidence,” he explained.

The defense was given 10 days to file a demurrer to evidence even without leave of court or to start presenting evidence in the continuation of the plunder trial.

He said the ruling against their request tended to support the court’s previous stand that the evidence is strong when it denied Revilla’s petition for bail.

“If it will now grant the leave to file demurrer and grants the demurrer, it will show that the grant of the denial of the bail was not appropriate. Our position that the information has not charged the offense of plunder is very solid because the alleged overt criminal acts are not illegal, …are not criminal,” he insisted.

“My assertion that there is no element of plunder beyond reasonable doubt, except that senator Revilla was a senator stands on very strong grounds. There is no evidence that Revilla received … ill-gotten wealth. That is why I challenged them to now identify the document,” Mendoza said. – Peter J. G. Tabingo
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