The odd case of Revilla: Acquitted but ordered to return P124M from PDAF - The Daily Sentry

Monday, December 10, 2018

The odd case of Revilla: Acquitted but ordered to return P124M from PDAF

Former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr / photo from Philstar

Manila, Philippines – After former Senator Bong Revilla Jr. was acquitted of plunder, many were confused when Sandiganbayan ordered him, together with the other accused to return ₱124.5 million to the government.

Some law experts said that he may not be found guilty of a criminal charge but could still be held civilly liable.

Return the lost money

"Conviction on the criminal charge requires proof beyond reasonable doubt, while a judgment of liability on the civil charge requires only a preponderance of evidence," said Abdiel Fajardo, 
President of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), said in a statement on Monday.

The lawyer explained that the prosecution may have failed to prove Revilla’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but the court is also convinced that there was lot evidences against the former senator to just ignore it.

"must be held as equally accountable to the People of the Philippines with respect to the return of the money lost by virtue of the PDAF scam." Fajardo said

The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is also known as pork barrel or funds set aside for lawmakers' projects. It was declared unconstitutional by the High Court in 2013 following the exposé on its misuse.

Difference between preponderance of evidence and proof beyond reasonable doubt

Meanwhile, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of San Beda's Graduate School of Law and an expert on Constitution has the same view as Fajardo.

On his Facebook post on December 7, Fr. Aquino explained the difference between preponderance of evidence, which means "the proof of guilt is greater than the proof of non-guilt," and proof beyond reasonable doubt wherein the court, "by the strength of the evidence presented, has no more reasonable questions left to ask about the culpability of the accused."*

"In this case, there may be preponderance of evidence sufficient to establish your civil liability, that does not however rise to the level of proof beyond reasonable doubt to secure your conviction," Aquino said.

The Dean also cited that when an accused may commit a mistake without any criminal intent - and thus be only civilly liable by the court.

"If you bring home your office mate's wallet, thinking in all good faith that it is yours, and your office mate later on charges you with theft, you will, in all probability be acquitted absent any proof that you intended to defraud your colleague, but you will still be ordered to return the wallet and its contents for the simple reason that it is not yours," Aquino said.

Revilla won't pay

Revilla’s camp , on the other hand, maintained that he will not pay and insisted that only those convicted should – referring to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and Revilla's staff Richard Cambe.

 Former deputy speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada who expressed disbelief over Revilla’s acquittal, said that Revilla should return the money as ordered  by the Sandiganbayan.

“It is with great disbelief that the Sandiganbayan acquitted Bong Revilla despite demanding that he return the P124 million in his bank accounts… It is with greater suspicion that he refuses to return what has proven to be stolen funds. That proves his intent to gain from his pork barrel funds. He is guilty,” the statement read.