Lani: Sula retraction an ‘answered prayer’
Thus, Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado described Marina Sula’s recantation from her original testimony against former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in the alleged multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Mercado, in a broadcast interview, said members of the Revilla family were surprised over Sula’s withdrawal from her testimony, claiming she was coached by the prosecution apparently to pin down Revilla.
Revilla is the last of three senators under detention as a result of the P10-billion pork barrel scam case filed during the previous term of President Aquino.
The controversy was mainly based on a Commission on Audit (CoA) special report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that covered 2007 to 2009, which questioned the use of the legislative pork barrel.
More than 100 legislators including allies of Aquino were cited in the report, but only Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Revilla were prosecuted, which triggered allegations of selective justice.
Estrada was released on bail in September last year after Enrile who was also freed on bail in 2015.
“We really did not expect it. We were praying for it. It has been four years and eight days (on Thursday), it was really an answered prayer!” Mercado said.
Mercado also stressed Sula actually did not recant, citing her statement before the Sandiganbayan 1st Division last Thursday.
“You cannot say she backtracked because the witness said ‘why you asked that question only now.’She was asked by the judge, ‘Why are you so emotional?’ and she said, ‘It is only now that we can tell the truth,’” Mercado said.
“Maybe she was relieved after telling the truth,” Mercado added.
During the hearing, Sula was placed under direct examination of lawyer Reody Anthony Balisi, who asked her if she had any knowledge of whether Revilla was aware of the implementation of projects supposedly funded by his PDAF allocations.
Sula denied meeting Revilla during her time as an employee of JLN [Janet Lim Napoles] Corp.
Mercado said they will have to consult their lawyers on their next move, including possible petition for bail.
“We will seek the advice of our lawyers,” Mercado said.
Recently, Mercado noted the Philippine National Police Custodial Center has been strict on Revilla following the confiscation of a cellular phone from him.
The PNP seized a cellular phone from Revilla after he supposedly posted a “selfie” on his Facebook account right inside his detention cell last week.
“We are still praying because our fight is not yet over. We still have to wait [from] 60 to 90 days for the verdict of the Sandiganbayan,” Mercado said.
Next legal move
Revilla’s counsels are also now contemplating to ask the Sandiganbayan First Division to drop the pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy from the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) and revoke his immunity from charges.
Sula pointed to Luy as the culprit behind the forged signatures of Revilla in the endorsement letters for PDAF-funded foundations linked to alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. She said she saw Luy forge at least three letters.
“After four years, four long years. This only confirms what I have known from the beginning, that I was targeted,” the senator said.
“Naiiyak at natutuwa po ako ng sabay (I feel like crying and rejoicing at the same time),” Revilla added.
Sula also pointed to former Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Joefferson Toribio, who is now a judge in Tarlac as the one who coached her before testifying and told her to substantiate Luy’s claims.
Sula said she personally saw Luy sign the documents without the knowledge of Revilla.
It was Luy, as a standard operating procedure in their office, who signed the names of lawmakers in the endorsement letter, including that of Revilla.
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