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Revilla's 'pork' rap simple bribery, not plunder-ex-solgen.

The pork barrel charges against former senator Ramon Revilla Jr. should be downgraded to simple bribery, not plunder.

This was the position taken by Revilla's lawyer Estelito Mendoza, former solicitor general of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which he presented to the Sandiganbayan during Revilla's scheduled plunder trial on Thursday.

Due to the pendency of Revilla's motion to quash and the clarifications on the draft pre-trial order, the anti-graft court reset Revilla's plunder trial to Feb. 23.

In his oral arguments, Mendoza said the information only constitutes an offense of simple bribery, not the non-bailable offense of plunder or the accumulation of at least P50 million ill-gotten wealth.

Mendoza even chided the prosecution to file a simple bribery charge instead.

'Based on the facts, the offense should have been (simple) bribery, not plunder,' Mendoza said.

Mendoza said plunder according to the plunder law or Republic Act 7080 is an offense of accumulating at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth, commissions or kickbacks through a series of overt criminal acts.

The veteran lawyer said all Revilla did was to endorse his Priority Development Assistance Funds to his co-accused and aide Richard Cambe for implementation by the spurious foundations.

Mendoza said Revilla's endorsements of the pork barrel projects is far from being a criminal act according to the plunder law or Republic Act 7080.

'Nowhere in (the law) can you find that one of the overt criminal acts is an act of endorsement. The act of endorsement is not a criminal act Then there is no plunder,' Mendoza said.

Lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio rejected Mendoza's claims and said the information clearly constitutes plunder.

Toribio added that the court in its resolution denying Revilla bail due to strong evidence of guilt for plunder confirms the validity of the information.

'The information that we filed for plunder is a valid information. That is their position that we should have filed a bribery case,' Toribio said.

Dressed in a striped polo shirt, Revilla refused to comment about his legal defense.

He was accompanied by usual police escorts. His son Cavite Vice Governor Jolo Revilla attended the hearing.

Mendoza has taken the position that the offense of plunder, or the accumulation of at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth, should be downgraded to simple bribery.

'That is not the problem with the law, the problem with the law is the offense. Sa akin eh, bakit hindi na lang ganyan, bribery lang yan. Karamihan ng plunder cases bribery lang,' Mendoza said in a July 2016 interview.

(That is not the problem with the law, the problem with the law is the offense. For me, it should just simply be bribery. Most plunder cases are only bribery.)

'Ang totoo lang bakit mo ba inaakushan, dahil tumanggap ng pera. Bakit hindi bribery na lang i-charge?' he added.

(Why did you accuse him of plunder for accepting money? Why not make it a bribery charge instead?)

Revilla's camp has brought in Mendoza in its legal team, even though the seasoned lawyer has been accused of fighting on the wrong side of history.

The former solicitor general has had several legal victories on his cap.

He defended and won the petition to dismiss the plunder case over a charity funds mess of former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo before the Supreme Court, which ruled that Arroyo's approval of the P366 million fund releases from the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office was only ministerial and does not constitute an 'overt act' to commit plunder.

Mendoza also won the bail petition for Enrile before the Supreme Court which allowed the 92-year-old senator to post bail from hospital detention due to humanitarian reasons.

Mendoza has been known to defending controversial personalities, such as former presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, who were also accused of corruption.

He served various positions during the Marcos regime - he was justice undersecretary from 1971 to 1972; solicitor general from 1972 to 1986; secretary of justice from 1984 to 1986; Pampanga governor from 1980 to 1986, and member of the National Assembly from 1978 to 1980, and from 1984 to 1985.

He also defended the Marcoses in their ill-gotten wealth cases when the dictatorship was toppled by a people's uprising.

In the motion to quash Revilla filed on the eve of his trial, he through his lawyers said the information filed against him failed to sufficiently allege the facts constituting plunder.

He also said that the prosecution's failure to inform him of his charges violates his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, and his right to due process of law.

Revilla added that the information against him also do not constitute the offense of plunder, and thus must be quashed pursuant to Section(a) Rule 117 of the Rules of Court.

'Wherefore, for the foregoing reasons, accused Revilla respectfully prays that the Information in the instant case be quashed,' his motion read.

Revilla earlier lost his petition before the Supreme Court, which sustained the finding of probable cause for plunder against him.

It took two years for the embattled senator to face his charges in trial.

Revilla surrendered and was detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in 2014 as he stood trial for plunder.

He is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund in the scheme of using the pork barrel fund in ghost projects by mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Also detained for plunder is Revilla's colleague, former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who was denied bail while accused of pocketing P183.7-million kickbacks. Enrile, now out on bail, is accused of receiving P172.8-million kickbacks.

Their plunder and graft charges were filed with the Sandiganbayan by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in June 2014. Their trial is underway.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:3ARGE
Date:Feb 9, 2017
Words:1103
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