MANILA, Philippines – Asia United Bank (AUB) only filed a suspicious transaction report related to an account of former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr after the exposé on the pork barrel scam, a bank officer told the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Thursday, September 14.
AUB bank officer Eduardo Arsenio Roldan made the admission in response to questions from Sandiganbayan First Division Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg. Prosecutors put Roldan on the stand to testify on several Revilla accounts amounting to more than P42 million. (READ: Bong Revilla in plunder trial: I will be free soon)
The accounts are under several names: Bong Revilla, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jose Marie Bautista (Revilla’s real name), Jesusa Victoria Bautista (the real name of wife Lani Mercado), and several joint accounts of the Revilla couple with their son Bryan.
According to Roldan, there were "covered" transactions in the account under the name Ramon Bong Revilla. A covered transaction involves a threshold of P500,000 which is done within one day.
It was at that point when Econg got the information from Roldan that AUB only filed the suspicious transaction report after the exposé on the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
Revilla is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, through his former staff lawyer Richard Cambe, and nongovernmental organizations ran by alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Revilla believed that the bank officer's admission favored him. (READ: Local execs testify in Revilla plunder trial: 'We never got projects')
“Nagkaroon lang ng red flag ‘nung sinabi na, noong inimbestigahan na nila ako. Noong ano, wala namang red flag, so walang illegal transaction. Kaya nagpapasalamat ako sa witness na prinesent nila ngayon na lumalabas na walang iligal na nangyari. Para akong nabunutan ng tinik eh, na parang thank you, kaya may Diyos pa rin,” Revilla said.
(They only discovered the red flag after I was already being investigated. Before that there was no red flag, so that means there was no illegal transaction. I thank the witness because it seems now nothing illegal happened. I feel so relieved. Thank you, there’s still a God.)
Scraping the bottom of the barrel?
Revilla’s defense team led by former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza made repeated objections to Roldan’s testimony on Thursday, saying it violated the bank secrecy law.
Prosecutors defended the move, saying the Court of Appeals had authorized the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to examine the bank accounts. The Sandiganbayan subpoenaed records culled from that inquiry.
Sandiganbayan First Division Chairman Efren dela Cruz allowed Roldan to continue his testimony despite Mendoza’s objections.
In October 2014, AMLC lawyer Leigh Vhon Santos testified before the court that P87 million worth of cash deposits in Revilla's account match the financial records of pork scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.
The deposits to Revilla's account were made within 30 days of the dates that the senator allegedly received the kickbacks, as reflected on Luy's ledger.
Mendoza insisted that the dots do not connect, and repeatedly manifested to the court that the bank witnesses and their testimonies were irrelevant.
“They are scraping the [bottom of the] barrel. This is an implicit admission that prosecutors do not have evidence,” Mendoza said.
Lead prosecutor Jefferson Toribio said after the last hearing on September 7 that the prosecution would be able to connect the dots through their witnesses and evidence, and paint the big picture for the court’s appreciation.
Asked again when they plan to file their motion or petition for bail, Mendoza said it would be premature to say.
On August 31, the lawyer indicated that they would move for a bail grant for Revilla. Mendoza is the lawyer of former senator Juan Ponce Enrile who was granted bail even if he was charged with the same nonbailable offense of plunder.
Former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is also under trial for plunder over the pork barrel scam, has a pending bail petition before the Sandiganbayan's Special 5th Division.