MANILA - The lawyer of former Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. on Thursday attempted to block the presentation of prosecution witnesses at the continuation of the detained former lawmaker's plunder trial, saying they only supposedly prove the guilt of alleged Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Veteran lawyer Estelito Mendoza told the Sandiganbayan 1st Division during the hearing that the testimonies of five witnesses on alleged ghost projects of non-government organizations (NGOs) tagged in the racket were only concerning Napoles and not Revilla.
Mendoza reiterated that, from the information filed by the prosecution, “it was Mrs. Napoles who misappropriated PDAF proceeds” and “it was for her personal gain.”
The five witnesses were former Tuba, Benguet Mayor Florencio Bentrez; former Balungao, Pangasinan Barangay Captain Ramel Serdeniola; former Kibungan, Benguet Mayor Benito Siadto; former Luna, La Union Mayor Celedonio Sonido; and Kibungan, Benguet municipal agriculturist Perfecto Cayat.
But prosecutor Joefferson Toribio reiterated that, based on the information filed, the NGOs were funded by Revilla's PDAF.
The court, led by its chair Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, still allowed the testimony.
The defense and prosecution, however, stipulated on the testimonies of the witnesses based on the offer of the prosecution.
During the Ombudsman's investigation, the witnesses had testified on the bogus nature of Napoles NGO Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.
Meanwhile, pre-trial proceedings on the sixteen graft cases involving Revilla, Napoles and their co-accused was terminated and the start of the trial was set on Oct. 5. Both the plunder and graft cases will be heard every Thursday.
In an interview after the hearing, Revilla reiterated his innocence.
“Konting-tiis na lang, magkikita-kita rin tayo sa labas,” Revilla said.
The Ombudsman had accused the former actor-lawmaker of amassing P224.5 million from the PDAF scam, where lawmakers' discretionary funds were supposedly funneled into bogus NGOs set up by Napoles.
He has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame since 2014.