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No smoking gun: Bong Revilla acquitted on testimonies about his forged signature

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Former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has been acquitted on Friday (Dec. 7) of plunder by the Sandiganbayan 1st Division after having proved his signatures were forged concerning his alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

However, his two co-accused, his former staff Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, were not lucky and were sentenced to reclusion perpetua after being convicted of plunder.

They are also ordered to return to the National Treasury P124 million.

Apart from the testimony of a handwriting expert and Revilla’s denial that he signed the documents used as evidence against him, the anti-graft court said the testimonies of whistleblowers showed that their fellow whistleblower Benhur Luy was the one who forged the signatures.

“Marina Sula, Merlina Sunas and Mary Arlene Baltazar even categorically revealed when they testified for the defense that Benhur Luy was the sole author thereof,” the court cited.

Because of this, the court said it is “highly improbable if said signatures in those documents could ever constitute smoking guns at all against accused Revilla regarding the charge against him.”

“The consequence of this factual finding that the purported signature of accused Revilla is a forgery constitutes a great blow to the prosecution,” ruled the anti-graft court.

Under the case, Revilla is accused of having amassed P224 million in kickbacks from Napoles, in exchange for choosing her non-government organizations (NGO) to implement ghost projects funded by his PDAF.

In its decision, the anti-graft court said that the testimonies of whislteblowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas was “able to establish that monies totaling Php 238,447,500.00 were given to and received by accused Cambe but could not establish the fact that the said sums were received by Revilla.”

“For the testimony to establish the fact of receipt of the kickback by Revilla would be considered as hearsay,” it stressed.

“The fact that the lawmaker, in this case Revilla, requested for the release of his PDAF and then endorsed the NGO to the Implementing Agency to be the latter’s partner in the implementation of the project funded by the PDAF, if indeed he made such endorsement considering that his signature found on the endorsement letters are forged does not lead a logical persons to assume that he knows that Napoles and Cambe are ‘making money’ from the project and he is part of the scheme,” it added.