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Jinggoy blocks ombudsman's move to recall his bail

Former senator Jinggoy Estrada, through his lawyers, slammed the ombudsman's prosecution team for insisting that the Fifth Division “committed serious error” when it granted him bail on the ground that there was supposedly no evidence presented showing that he is the “main plunderer” in the case. File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Former senator Jinggoy Estrada has urged the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division to junk the Office of the Ombudsman's appeal seeking the reversal of the court's September 15 ruling allowing him to post bail for his plunder case in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

In his 19-page opposition paper dated October 9, Estrada through his lawyers, slammed the ombudsman's prosecution team for insisting that the Fifth Division “committed serious error” when it granted him bail on the ground that there was supposedly no evidence presented showing that he is the “main plunderer” in the case.

“The prosecution, in effect, is asking the Honorable Court to not only reverse its Resolution...but also to defy the Supreme Court En Banc's categorical pronouncement that 'the law requires in the criminal charge for plunder against several individuals that there must be a main plunderer and her co-conspirators,” Estrada said.

Estrada was referring to the SC's July 2016 ruling on the plunder case of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the alleged misuse of the P366-million intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

In its ruling, the High Tribunal reversed the Sandiganbayan's decision and granted Arroyo's demurrer to evidence which prayed for the dismissal of the case the ground of the prosecution's failure to identify the main plunderer in. The ruling was upheld by the SC in April this year.

The Arroyo ruling was heavily cited by the Fifth Division in granting bail to Estrada, pointing out that just like in the case of the former president, the prosecution likewise failed to identify the main plunderer in Estrada's case.

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“The Prosecution is apparently goading the Honorable Court to shrink its responsibility to adhere to judicial precedents and its duty to follow a rule already established in a final decision of the Supreme Court,” Estrada said.

In its motion for reconsideration filed on September 26, the prosecution maintained that identifying the main plunder in the charge sheet is not a prerequisite under Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder Law, as long as the it was sufficiently alleged that the crime was committed collectively by the respondents in conspiracy with each other.

Estrada said this argument must not be given credence by the court as there was supposedly no evidence presented showing that he conspired with the other respondents in the case.

Estrada said the only evidence presented by the prosecution to prove his supposed “conspiracy” with the other respondents was his mere endorsements of two the non-government organizations, allegedly owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, as the implementers of projects to be funded by his PDAF.

Estrada pointed out that mere endorsements of NGOs “are not the ultimate step” towards the commission of the “design” to plunder his PDAF.

Estrada pointed out that as it was still the Department of Budget and Management who had the sole authority to release his PDAF and the government implementing agencies who ultimately chose the NGOs for the projects.

“In any event, the grant of PDAF funds to NGOs for the implementation of a project is not per se illegal...The endorsements by themselves do not show that Sen. Estrada had foreknowledge of any irregularity committed at the level of the implementation agencies or on the part of any of the co-accused,” Estrada said.

Furthermore, Estrada also maintained that none of the evidence presented by the prosecution at the course of more than a year of bail hearings, can prove that he was at the center of the misuse of his PDAF.

Estrada said that as admitted by whistleblowers Benhur Luy and Marina Sula during the bail hearings, they were the ones who organized and registered the alleged fake NGOs involved in the supposed scheme, coordinated and followed up with the DBM regarding the release of his PDAF, dealt personally with the implementing agencies, received and encashed the checks representing the PDAF allocations, and prepared the liquidation documents concerning the implementation of the PDAF-funded projects.

“These persons who were at the very center of all the activities of the supposed conspiracy, as they themselves testified, were none other than Benhur K. Luy and Marina C. Sula,” Estrada said.

Lastly, Estrada said none of the witnesses presented by the prosecution also testified that he personally received P183 million worth of kickbacks from Napoles in exchange for allocating portions of his PDAF from 2004 to 2012 to the latter's NGOs.

“Clearly, the Honorable Court was correct in finding that there is no strong proof that Sen. Estrada is the mastermind or main plunderer in the instant case and, in line with the Arroyo case, Sen. Estrada is entitled to post and be released on bail,” Estrada said.

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