Due to a pending appeal of the defense, the Sandiganbayan First Division Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz canceled the scheduled hearing for the plunder trial of former senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr.
The initial trial was canceled again on Thursday — the sixth time it was suspended. Bong Revilla’s plunder trial was initially set for January 12 but was cancelled, was reset and canceled again on Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 30, April 20 and now, June 1. It is moved to June 22 and every Thursday thereafter.
Revilla’s lawyers are appealing the denial of their earlier motion to exclude evidence related to alleged bogus foundations and the ghost pork barrel projects in connection with the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam.
The actor-politician is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his PDAF, through ghost projects of Napoles, the alleged mastermind.
Revilla surrendered and has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center since 2014.
Justice Dela Cruz said he was projecting that the trial could take more than a year, but less than two years, due to the provided settings allotted to the parties.
The defense was given a maximum of 50 settings, to be shared among Revilla, accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, and Revilla’s alleged bagman former chief of staff Richard Cambe, to present their 69 witnesses. Revilla, Napoles and Cambe were then summoned to attend the signing of the pre-trial order on June 15.
When Justice Dela Cruz asked the defense if the trial would take not more than two years, Revilla’s counsel Richard Keith Pioquinto gave a non-committal “hopefully,” followed by an awkward laughter from his fellow lawyers.
Also accused for plunder are Revilla’s colleagues, former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.