Today, the Philippines’ anti-graft court acquitted former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plunder. While he still needs to face 16 counts of graft, he has been released from Camp Crame where he had been detained for four years.
However, many still believe that Revilla is guilty of pocketing PHP224 million (US$4,257,505.55) by allocating pork barrel funds to fake non-government organizations.
To vent frustrations, netizens took to Twitter and expressed their dismay about the verdict.
Blogger @MrFrankBaraan said that the country’s high courts “have a penchant for dispensing injustice.”
Sandiganbayan acquits Bong Revilla of plunder. WTF.
Is it just me, or do the Philippines’ highest courts’ justices have a penchant for dispensing INJUSTICE, instead of JUSTICE?
Imelda was just granted bail for 7 counts of graft charges. Now, Revilla gets acquitted?!
— Francis Baraan IV (@MrFrankBaraan) December 7, 2018
Lawyer @gideonlasco said the saddest part about the acquittal was that it wasn’t really surprising.
The saddest part in Revilla’s acquittal is the fact that it’s no longer surprising.
Yes we’ve had the conviction of Kian’s killers and Imelda the thief – but they remain exceptions to the rule. Under this administration, it seems that the only heinous crime is to tell the truth.
— Gideon Lasco (@gideonlasco) December 7, 2018
@shairaptrc wrote that the acquittal and other incidents for the past few weeks have made her think that now is the perfect time to be an activist.
Revilla aquitted of plunder. Federal constitution passed 2nd reading w/o a quorum. Memo 32 increasing AFP troops in Bicol, Negros & Samar. Formation of a nationwide death squad. ML extension. Criminalizing of workers’ unions. Silencing of dissent. Perfect time to be an activist.
— Shaira Patricia (@shairaptrc) December 7, 2018
Meanwhile, @Punongbayan_ joked: “Bong Revilla was acquitted because Father Digong (President Rodrigo Duterte) likes using a bong to keep him awake. Joke.”
The poster was referring to Duterte’s statement that he smokes marijuana to keep himself awake — which he later said was just a joke.
Na-acquit si Bong Revilla kasi mahilig si Tatay Digong gumamit ng bong pampagising charot.
— PUTO TUMBONG (@Punongbayan_) December 7, 2018
@PerciCen questioned why, despite Revilla’s acquittal, the senator and his co-accused Janet Napoles and his former staff Richard Cambe, still have to return PHP124.5 million (more than US$2.354 million) to the national treasury.
He wrote: “Class, please explain. Not guilty but he’s being told to return the money.”
Not guilty pero pinapasoli ang pera.
— Perci Cendana (@PerciCen) December 7, 2018
He added sarcastically: “Maybe the government just asked Handsome (Revilla) to hide the money so that it won’t be misplaced.”
Baka pinatago lang ng gobyerno yung millions kay Pogi para hindi ma-misplace.
— Perci Cendana (@PerciCen) December 7, 2018
Parody account @MalacananEvents meanwhile shared a meme which said: “Do you miss this? Kap’s Amazing Stories will return on TV, featuring 16 million ways to get away with plunder!”
Kap’s Amazing Stories was a show Revilla appeared in that aired on TV channel GMA.
Na-miss niyo ba ‘to? Magbabalik na ang Kap’s Amazing Stories sa TV, featuring 16 million ways to get away with plunder! pic.twitter.com/P2MrHmRsWN
— Malacañang Events and Catering Services (@MalacananEvents) December 7, 2018
Meanwhile, Senator Ping Lacson said that as a friend, he was “happy” for Revilla but as an anti-pork barrel advocate, the decision left him “weak and defeated.”
As a former colleague and friend, I am happy for ex Sen Bong Revilla. As a strong advocate against the pork barrel, I feel weak and defeated. As a legislator, I respect the decision of the Sandiganbayan. At the end of the day, life goes on. Same is true with our battles.
— PING LACSON (@iampinglacson) December 7, 2018
Singer @valenzuelabp wrote that Revilla’s acquittal, as well as the legal issues faced by journalist Maria Ressa, makes one feel “helpless.”
Ressa is facing numerous cases from the Philippine government. Many from the international community have voiced their support, with one United Nations official calling the charges the Philippine government’s censorship tools.
it sucks that a lot of support and outrage for maria ressa’s silencing is coming from the foreign press. meanwhile they acquit bong revilla who stole 224 million pesos from the filipino people. every day we get worse news and it feels helpless :^/ https://t.co/xU8THXlabI
— bp ✾꒡ .̮ ꒡✾ (@valenzuelabp) December 7, 2018
Writer @mlq3 doesn’t have much to say, but simply tweeted a photo of Revilla hugging former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who’s out on bail after being detained for the same pork barrel scandal.
The caption: “TGIF!”
— Manuel L. Quezon III (@mlq3) December 7, 2018
While netizens were not happy with the verdict, the Malacañang Palace said that it respects the court’s decision.
In a statement released by Presidental Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, he said: “Regardless of the sentiments to the contrary, we have to bow down to the judgment of the Sandiganbayan. We have consistently respected the independence of the Judiciary and we will continue to do so in this case as we implement the final orders of the anti-graft court on the matter.”
Revilla comes from a family of actors and politicians. His wife Lani Mercado is a former actress and the mayor of Bacoor, a town in Cavite province. His son Jolo is Cavite’s vice governor. His father Ramon Revilla Sr. was also a former senator and action star, infamous for having multiple mistresses and children.
Revilla is looking to make a comeback and is running for senator in next year’s mid-term elections.