The Fifth Division had earlier issued a hold departure order against Estrada to bar him from leaving the country without its prior written permission. AP/Aaron Favila, File

Sandigan OKs Jinggoy's Hong Kong vacation
Elizabeth Marcelo (philstar.com) - December 11, 2017 - 7:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada will be spending his first Christmas vacation as a free man abroad.

In a short hearing Monday morning, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division granted in open court Estrada's motion to stay in Hong Kong from December 26 to 31, 2017, despite the vehement opposition of the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution team.

“I am very very thankful and grateful to the members of the court for granting my Christmas vacation with my family. This means a lot to my family, especially to my children... This is the first time that I'll be with them abroad,” Estrada said after attending the hearing.

READ: Jinggoy seeks court's nod for holiday vacation in Hong Kong

The Fifth Division had earlier issued a hold departure order against Estrada to bar him from leaving the country without its prior written permission.

The order was issued in connection with Estrada's pending cases of plunder and 11 counts of graft in connection with the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel during his term as a senator.

He is accused of receiving P183-million worth of kickbacks from the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for allocating portions of his PDAF from 2004 to 2012 to the latter's bogus foundations for the supposed implementation of his livelihood projects.

The ombudsman, which filed the cases in June 2014, said Estrada's projects turned out to be “ghost” or fictitious.

In his motion filed last week, Estrada said his wife Precy and their children Janella, Jolo, Julian and Jill “have been longing for bonding outside of the country” especially after he was granted bail by the court last September. Estrada said his family would be staying at the Marco Polo chain of hotels for the entire duration of the trip.

Estrada was detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City since June 2014 for his plunder case. But on September 15 of this year, the Fifth Division allowed him to post bail on the ground of the supposed lack of evidence from the prosecution showing that he is the “main plunderer” in the case.

Meanwhile, Estrada said he continues to visit his friend and former fellow Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. who remains in detention in connection with the pork barrel scam.

“Twice or thrice a week I go to [Camp] Crame to visit him and uplift his spirits,” Estrada said.

READ: Jinggoy clueless on DOJ's plan to utilize him as DAP witness

Estrada said Revilla is “feeling quite depressed” after the First Division of the Sandiganbayan recently denied the latter's motion to file a demurrer, which would have sought the dismissal of his plunder and graft cases over the “pork” scam.

“But I think his lawyers are exhausting all the legal remedies for him to be able to post bail,” Estrada said.

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