Did Sandiganbayan ignore AMLC report on Revilla wealth?

Trishia Billones, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 10 2018 12:11 PM

MANILA - Differing opinions sprouted on Monday regarding the appreciation of the Sandiganbayan of an audit report on former Sen. Bong Revilla's wealth from 2007 to 2010 in the court's decision to acquit him of plunder.

The Anti-Money Laundering Council report on Revilla's transactions during the supposed time indicated by scam whistleblower Benhur Luy did not seem to raise red flags for the justices in the anti-graft court, said former Supreme Court Spokesman Theodore Te.

The report said the bank deposits and investments made by Revilla and his family amounted to about P87 million from April 2006 to April 2010. Before that, Luy claimed the then-lawmaker received commissions or rebates from his transactions with businesswoman Janet Napoles involving his Priority Development Assistance Fund during this same period.

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"That would have triggered the court to say, 'Okay, this is a red flag.' There is an AMLC certification. There is a testimony, there is something that says this part of the money went to his bank account," Te told ANC's Early Edition.

"It's a question of who the court will believe, this is AMLC, this is a body that we trust to establish these things. So it's a bit difficult for me to understand why the majority would not accept that," the law professor said.

But Revilla's counsel said the Sandiganbayan decision has a "very lengthy explanation" why the report cannot be given credence since it cannot be conclusive as to the fact of the receipt of commission.

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"To the majority, it has no probative value because the AMLC report presented so many possibilities—one possibility is that the money could have come from different sources. The other possibility is that the money may have come from different accounts, withdrawn from different accounts, deposited into these accounts," lawyer Ramon Esguerra told ANC's Headstart.

"Moreover, what is clear is the court, the majority, found that there is no one-is-to-one correspondence insofar as the alleged kickbacks purportedly received by the senator from the company of Mrs Napoles," he said.

Esguerra said the summary of rebates presented by Luy "did not match what has been deposited into these accounts of the former senator, the wife, and even the company that the wife controls."

He said Luy was not even able to identify some of the special allotment release order (SARO) he alleged to have seen and which have meant disbursements were made by the government.

Levito Balingod, counsel for Luy when the alleged PDAF scam was made public, said the numbers in Luy's ledger and the numbers in the AMLC report did not exactly match because Richard Cambe, Revilla's former chief of staff, "received a portion of that commission."

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"Both records involve thousands of characters and it will be too much of a coincidence for thousands of figures matching. Sinabi naman ng mga witnesses na Atty Cambe also had a percentage from the commission," he told ANC's Headstart in a separate interview.

"But look at the dates, the SARO numbers. You cannot just manufacture them out of memory," he said.

Cambe and Napoles were found guilty of plunder, while Revilla was acquitted.

In the dissenting opinions of Sandiganbayan 1st Division Chairperson Efren De la Cruz and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, they pointed out that Revilla should not have been acquitted as he conspired with Napoles and Cambe in diverting funds from his PDAF through Napoles' non-government organizations.

Gomez-Estoesta said while the testimonies of Luy and fellow whistleblower Merlina Sunas are “not potent” to establish that Revilla authorized Cambe, the other pieces of evidence will prove that Revilla greatly benefited from the scam.

She pointed to the inquiry report of the AMLC which made a financial analysis on the “irrefutable burgeoning wealth” of Revilla.

"Taken together with the amalgamation of forces that brought about the conspiracy in the PDAF scam, these facts positively establish that the end-all of the conspiracy is for Senator Revilla to have 50% of the PDAF allocation that only passed through his conspirator, Atty. Cambe, to eventually end up in his bank accounts,” she said.