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Bong Revilla acquitted of plunder, Sandigan rules

The Sandiganbayan on Friday said it found former Senator Ramon Bong Revilla Jr.  not guilty of plunder in connection with the multi-billion-peso pork barrel fund scam.

The anti-graft court, however, found Revilla's co-accused — businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and lawyer Richard Cambe — guilty and sentenced them to reclusion perpetua.

Napoles is described as the mastermind of the scam while Cambe is Revilla's former legislative aide.

The court also ordered Napoles and Cambe to "solidarily" return P124 million to the government. They are also perpetually disqualified to hold public office.

Immediately after his acquittal, Revilla posted P480,000 in bail bond for his temporary freedom on his graft case.

"Of course because I know that I’m not guilty. Noon ko pa sinasabi na wala akong kasalanan," Revilla said when asked if he expected the ruling.

Revilla said he intends to spend the next few days with his family.

The Sandiganbayan First Division had to convene to a special division of five to acquit Revilla because the three regular members were unable to come up with a unanimous decision.

The special division voted 3-2 in acquitting Revilla, with only the chairperson, Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, as the lone regular member who voted to convict him. He is joined by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.

The three votes came from Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona, the two other regular members, and Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo.

The majority said the prosecution was unable to prove Revilla received kickbacks worth P224.5 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, by channeling them to the bogus foundations of alleged scheme mastermind Janet Lim Napoles from 2006 to 2010.

"For failure of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that accused Ramon 'Bong' Revilla Jr. received, directly or indirectly the rebates, commission, and kickbacks from his PDAF, the Court cannot hold him liable for the crime of plunder. Accordingly, he is acquitted," the dispositive portion read.

Revilla has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since June 20, 2014 after the Sandiganbayan ordered his arrest.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires had directed his prosecutors not to appeal a decision of acquittal, making the ruling final and executory. 

Assistant Special Prosecutor Mariter Delfin Santos said the prosecution panel is "disappointed" with the decision, while Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano said they will study legal remedies available. —KBK, GMA News