Bong Revilla cries political persecution

He is facing plunder and graft charges over the illegal diversion of his discretionary funds to fake non-governmental organizations controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.

Two other opposition senators, their aides, and government officials, and Napoles have also been charged with plunder and graft. The scam involved senators endorsing Napoles’ NGOs to implementing agencies as recipients of their Priority Development Assistance Fund, and allegedly got kickbacks in return.

Revilla, according to prosecutors, received the most kickback P242 million ($5.54 million)* among the 3 accused senators.

Wearing a shirt with Psalm 118:6 printed on it – "The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" – Revilla maintained his innocence, and appealed to critics to allow him to defend himself in court.

Still talking in reference to his family, he said: “Handa po akong magpakulong kahit wala akong kasalanan. Ang sa akin lamang, sana bigyan ninyo kami ng pagkakataong maipagtanggol ang sarili namin sa korte.” (I’m ready to be jailed even if I’m innocent. What I ask of you is, please give us the chance to defend ourselves before the court.)

For a moment, the senator became teary-eyed, his voice cracking. 

“Hindi po ako umaarte,” the actor-turned-politician said, pausing briefly. “Sa mga bumabatikos sa akin, ang sa akin lang, pakinggan din ninyo kami.” (I’m not acting. To those criticizing me, I’m just asking you, listen to us first.)

Although Revilla's family joined him during the rally, he was the only one who addressed the crowd. 

His wife refused to speak as she held back tears when the media asked her to give a message to the public. 

The elder Revilla, who is now 87 years old, spends most of his time on a wheelchair. The senator had put off telling his father about his impending arrest because of his delicate condition. Hours after his unsigned warrant of arrest was drafted and right after finishing his media interviews, Revilla informed his father, former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr, about the latest developments in an emotional encounter inside the Revilla complex. 

The Sandiganbayan's failure to sign his warrant of arrest before office closed Thursday afternoon gave Revilla's supporters the opportunity to gather before he turns himself in on Friday. 

Sympathizers started arriving in small groups immediately after news broke that the Sandiganbayan has issued a resolution on probable cause for his case. When more supporters arrived, they were instructed to gather at the nearby Cavite Coliseum to avoid causing traffic. 

Malacañang reacted to Revilla's insinuation of political persecution. 

“We respect his right to express his sentiments. Our law enforcers will perform the duty assigned by the courts in accordance with law, and with due respect to the rights of concerned individuals,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

Revilla thanked supporters who welcomed him warmly the past few days, when he visited vote-rich areas in Cavite and Metro Manila. He also apologized to supporters in other provinces whom he was scheduled to visit were it not for the pending warrant arrest.

“Sa mga taga-Bulacan, Cebu, Davao, Mindanao, paumanhin po, hindi na ako makakapunta diyan. Basta, mahal kayo ni Bong Revilla,” he said. (To those in Bulacan, Cebu, Davao, Mindanao, forgive me, I cannot go there anymore. But remember, Bong Revilla loves you.) – with a report from Angela Casauay/Rappler.com

*($1:P43.7339)