Revilla camp says testimony proves ex-senator's innocence
MANILA - “Hostile” witness Marina Sula, who is under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice, turned out to be a friendly witness for former Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. during his plunder trial in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam at the Sandiganbayan.
Sula, during her direct testimony with Revilla’s lawyer Reody Anthony Balisi, started by saying she did not personally see Revilla receiving money from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, alleged mastermind behind the scam, and John Raymund De Asis and Ronald Lim, who were also tagged in the fund diversion racket.
She then mentioned several times the name of her fellow whistleblower Benhur Luy, who supposedly forged the signature of Revilla in various endorsement letters for the release of PDAF to allegedly bogus non-government organizations.
“Wala pong alam si Sen. Revilla sa pag-prepare ng mga endorsement letters,” Sula said.
(Sen. Revilla knew nothing about preparing the endorsement letters.)
She said the former head of the Revilla prosecution panel, former Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Joefferson Toribio who is now a judge in Tarlac, had coached her before testifying.
Upon further questioning by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, Sula said Toribio asked her to just corroborate Luy's testimony.
“Ang sabi ni Director, magiging conflicting sa sinabi ni Benhur na ini-email muna, pero hindi naman ini-email kasi ginagawa sa office ang documents,” Sula said.
(The Director said it would be in conflict with what Benhur initially said that [documents are processed] through email, but there were no emails because the documents were made in the office.)
In the latter part of her testimony, Sula was almost teary-eyed, prompting Econg to ask why.
“Kasi po ngayon lang lumuwag ang loob ko, noon kasi pigil na pigil ang lahat at nung nabasa ko po ang TSN (transcript of stenographic notes), mayroon po siyang mga maling sinabi,” Sula said.
(Because it's only now that I feel lighter, I had held back before and when I read the TSN, he (Luy) said some wrong things.)
Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano said Sula's testimony was no longer a surprise as she has other cases related to the scam where she has no immunity from suit.
“May narinig na kami two days ago na she will recant her testimony pero we were hoping na magsasabi siya ng totoo,” Soriano said.
(We heard two days ago that she will recant her testimony but we hoped that she will tell the truth.)
Soriano also denied that Toribio or any member of the prosecution panel had instructed Sula to deviate from the facts of the case.
“There may be some other reasons, pero we stand by the other evidence presented by the prosecution, naniniwala kami and with respect to the testimony given by her against Judge Toribio, hindi namin 'yun gagawin,” Soriano said.
(There may be some other reasons, but we stand by the other evidence presented by the prosecution, we believe and with respect to the testimony given by her against Judge Toribio, we wouldn't do that.)
Soriano also said the prosecution still has a strong case against Revilla, with Sula testifying that his former senate staffer Richard Cambe had transacted on his behalf.
“Inamin naman niya na si Cambe ang pumipirma ng MOA (memorandum of agreement) di ba, eh si Cambe is a trusted staff ni Sen. Revilla. Ba't siya pipirma? May gagawin ba sa PDAF ang isang staff ng senator kung walang blessing ang senator?” Soriano said.
(She admitted that Cambe signed the MOA, and Cambe is a trusted staff of Sen. Revilla. Why would he sign? Could a staffer do something to a senator's PDAF without the senator's blessing?)
Meanwhile, defense lawyer Estelito Mendoza said Sula's testimony proves Revilla's innocence.
“The prosecution has not proven anything, that witness has just put an exclamation point to that matter, that the prosecution has not proven the charges or the allegations against Revilla,” Mendoza said.
Next to Sula, the defense panel is set to present Revilla as well as another "hostile" witness, whistleblower Mary Arlene Baltazar, in the afternoon hearing.