MANILA - Former Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. on Thursday skipped the start of his plunder trial at the Sandiganbayan in connection to the alleged anomalous disbursement of his pork barrel funds.
Revilla suffered from hypertension and was brought to the St. Luke's Medical Center, his lawyer said.
The Sandiganbayan justices, however, received no prior word on Revilla's condition.
The court pushed through with the proceedings and was taking the testimony of the first witness, as of this posting.
The proceedings make Revilla the first legislator to be tried over the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Revilla and former Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile were charged with plunder in 2014 for allegedly allocating millions of pesos of their pork barrel funds to fake non-government organizations set up by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
They were also charged with graft in connection with their allegedly anomalous priority development assistance fund (PDAF) disbursements: from 2006 to 2010 for Revilla, 2004 to 2010 for Ejercito, and 2004 to 2012 for Enrile.
The Ombudsman's resolutions ordering the filing of graft charges against the three solons and several others, including alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, were challenged before the Supreme Court, but the high court dismissed this petition earlier this year.
"In all three items, the court has found no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Ombudsman in finding probable cause to indict petitioners. The court deferred to the findings of the Ombudsman in the absence of grave abuse of discretion," said SC Spokesperson Theodore Te.
Napoles is imprisoned at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong since 2015. She was sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty for illegally detaining pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The Court of Appeals however acquitted Napoles last May. She continues to face detention due to her separate, non-bailable plunder cases.
Revilla and Estrada meanwhile are detained at the Philippine National Police Detention Center since 2014, while Enrile was released on bail in 2015 due to his poor health and old age.
The Sandiganbayan has scheduled the hearings of Revilla's case every Thursday, with morning and afternoon sessions to speed up the proceedings.
-- Report from Zhander Cayabyab, ABS-CBN News