MANILA (UPDATE) - After four years in detention, former Senator Bong Revilla was released on Friday evening after he was cleared of plunder in his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam case.
Revilla was officially released past 6 pm. He was reunited with his wife Lani Mercado and their children.
Revilla said he is still in disbelief that he is finally free after more than 4 years in detention.
"Para akong nananaginip eh, paglabas ko totoo ba 'to? After 4 years 6 months ako nakakulong, 1 taon akong niyurakan bago makulong. Halos limang taon mahigit ang nawala sakin," he said.
(It's like I'm dreaming. After I was released, is this real? After 4 years and 6 months in detention, 1 year of being maligned before I was detained. I lost almost five years.)
"Yung pangyayari na yun ay talagang napakabigat kung iisipin mo. Kung sa isang senador nangyari yun, what more kung sa isang ordinaryong tao na mabiktima ng ganitong klaseng pangyayari."
(This incident is really heavy. If it happened to a senator, what more to an ordinary person who fell victim to this kind of situation.)
Revilla thanked God and his family for supporting him.
"Sabi nga eh, without God, bibigay ka. Ang masasabi ko lang sa ating mga kababayan, pagdating ng mga pagsubok sa buhay natin, kailangan maging matatag tayo," he said.
(As they say, without God you will give up. What I can say to our fellow countrymen, we need to be strong when we face life's challenges.)
"At the end of the day, liliwanag din, kahit ano pang bagyo yan, kahit ano pang unos. At the end of the day, Panginoon pa rin ang sasagot sayo basta kapit lang tayo sa kaniya."
(At the end of the day, light will come no matter what storm. At the end of the day, God will answer you as long as you hold onto him.)
Earlier in the day, Mercado said her husband's acquittal is the "best Christmas ever" for their family.
"God is really, really good. Best Christmas ever sa aming pamilya," she said.
"Masaya po ang aming Pasko kasi makakasama na namin siya," Revilla's son, Jolo, added.
(Thank you for your love. We really felt it. We're very happy because we can be with him this Christmas.)
Mercado said they are taking the former senator's newfound freedom on a "day-to-day" basis.
"We’re taking this on a day-to-day basis. We want to go to Church and pray. He wants to visit my mother-in-law in Angelus Memorial in Imus. For tonight, a visit to my father-in-law and then we go back home and rest. Tomorrow is another day," she said.
As for Revilla's Senate comeback bid, Mercado said her husband decided to run again because he had unfinished business.
"If you would recall, he wasn’t really able to finish his term. There are still some things he wants to pursue in terms of giving service to the public. He has a very big heart, he still wants to serve the country," she said.
Revilla surrendered to authorities on June 20, 2014 after the anti-graft court issued an arrest warrant against him. He was detained at the Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
The actor-turned-politician was accused of pocketing P224 million in kickbacks from fake projects with the help of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who was convicted of plunder during the promulgation of their case on Friday.
Aside from Revilla, former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada were also charged with plunder and graft. Both Enrile and Estrada are out on bail.
While he has already been cleared of plunder, Revilla is still facing graft charges over the PDAF scam.