MANILA - Former senator Bong Revilla's acquittal of plunder will likely boost his chances of reclaiming his Senate seat in next year's midterm elections, his lawyer said Friday.
The Sandiganbayan cleared the action star-turned-politician of plunder, citing the prosecution's "failure" to prove that he received P224-million in kickbacks from alleged ghost projects that were funded using his "pork barrel."
"This will boost, I think, his candidacy for 2019. Remember that in terms of the surveys, what the surveys have been showing, the senator is in the Magic 12," his lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, told ANC.
Revilla placed 14th in a September Pulse Asia poll before he filed his certificate of candidacy. Twelve Senate seats are up for grabs in May.
The actor is "very popular" especially among the masses, Esguerra said.
Revilla's defense team and his family were all "elated" with the verdict, even if the vote among Sandiganbayan justices was not unanimous, he said.
The ex-senator's co-accused, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and his former chief-of-staff, Richard Cambe, were found guilty of plunder.
Prosecutors are still presenting evidence on the 16 cases still pending against Revilla and the 20 or so individuals accused alongside him.
"He would want to spend more time with his family in the meantime because this is a reunion of sorts, take care of his ailing father who is very old at the moment," he said.
"They were in a very celebratory (mood). The mood was really very, very happy and so I would like to guess that soon after the good senator is released from detention, they will get together and enjoy this time, a very important time in the life of the senator," he said.