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Jinggoy claims Ombudsman investigator to extort from him

The Sandiganbayan granting Estrada bail could have a "domino effect" on PDAF cases at the anti-graft court, sources warn. AP/Bullit Marquez, file

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada on Monday claimed that he too was a victim of the supposed corrupt practices in the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a chance interview with reporters, Estrada bared that a field investigator from the ombudsman attempted to extort money from him sometime in late 2013 when the anti-graft agency was still readying the charges against him in connection with his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam.

Estrada said the extortion attempt was in exchange for downgrading the plunder case that the ombudsman was then set to file against him to a lesser offense of graft.

Estrada said the offer was coursed by the ombudsman investigator through an emissary.

“Hindi naman directly sa 'kin, through an emissary. Humihingi sila ng pera sa 'kin. 'Di ako pumayag dahil alam ko malinis ang konsensya ko (Not directly to me but through an emissary. They were asking for money from me but I did not give in because I know that my conscience is clear),” Estrada said.

"Para babaan daw 'yung kaso ko imbis na plunder, graft na lang daw. Sabi ko 'sige ituloy niyo na 'kako, wala akong tinatago (It was for the downgrading of the case. Instead of plunder it would just be graft. But I said, go ahead, I have nothing to hide),” he added.

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Estrada, however, refused to name both the graft investigator and the supposed emissary.

The senator further refused to give the exact amount of money supposedly demanded by the investigator, but said it was not more than P1 million.

 

 

Estrada said the incident happened when the ombudsman was still at the early stage of its investigation on the pork barrel fund scam in late 2013.

It was in June 2014 when the ombudsman formally filed one count of plunder and 11 counts of graft against Estrada before the Sandiganbayan. He had been detained at Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City since then.

Plunder is a non-bailable offense that carries a penalty of life imprisonment while graft is a non-bailable offense that carries the penalty of six up to 10 years of imprisonment per count.

Just last month, Estrada was released from detention after the Sandiganbayan Special Fifth Division granted his motion for bail on the ground that the prosecution supposedly failed to present any evidence showing that he is the “main plunderer” in the case.

READ: Jinggoy pays P1.33-M bail for plunder, graft cases

Estrada bared the alleged extortion attempt when asked by reporters to comment on President Rodrigo Duterte's statement that corrupt practices are rampant in the ombudsman.

Duterte, last week said he will create a commission that would investigate the ombudsman especially its prosecutors and investigators who are supposedly into dismissing cases in exchange for bribe money.

“Naniniwala ako dun sa sinabi niya (I believe with what the President said),” Estrada said.

Estrada, however, said he is not inclined to participate in any fact-finding investigation by the commission that Duterte intends to create.

Estrada further said he has no plan of pressing any charges against the supposed graft investigator who attempted to extort money from him.

“It’s useless. Noon talagang halos lahat ng tao, ni-brainwash ng nakaraang administrasyon na magnanakaw kami kaya wala kaming kalaban-laban. Ngayon, unti-unti nang lumalabas na pinili kami (Before,almost everyone was brainwashed by the previous administration that we’re thieves. We were defenseless of the accusations. Now, it’s slowly being revealed that we were just selected),” Estrada said.

Ombudsman's alleged bias

Estrada said he did not report the incident to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales due to the latter's alleged bias against him and the other perceived enemies of the previous Aquino administration.

“Eh si Ombudsman Morales parang one track mind yan eh, wala pang kaso prinejudge na kami na guilty na kami, pano ko susumbong ko sa kanya? (Morales has a one-track mind. We were already prejudged as guilty even before the cases were filed. How can I report to her?),” Estrada said.

Meanwhile, at the first day of the trial of Estrada's plunder case, the prosecution presented Mae Castillon, acting chief of the compliance section of the Bureau of Internal Revenue district office.

Castillon testified on Estrada's submission of his income tax returns (ITRs) from 2007 to 2012.

The ITRs supposedly show that in those years, Estrada's annual income tax payments ranged from P 1 million to P5 million.

Office of the Special Prosecutor director Ma. Christina Marallag-Batacan said Estrada's income tax payments “pale in comparison” to his declared wealth in those years which range from P83 million to P195 million based on his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN)

Maria Lourdes Arbas, director of the Office of the Senate Secretary, was presented to testify on having custody of Estrada's SALNs from 2004 to 2013 during his term as a senator.

Batacan said the disparity between Estrada's declared wealth and his tax payments would show "whether or not the income there in the SALN is a result of the kickbacks" he allegedly amassed from the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

Estrada is accused of amassing of P183-million worth of kickbacks by allocating portions of his PDAF to bogus non-government organizations supposedly owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the “pork” scam.

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