The Sandiganbayan was asked to order former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for allegedly using a falsified invitation letter in support of his motion to travel to the United States.
AP/Aaron Favila, File
Jinggoy faces contempt over 'fake' US invite
Elizabeth Marcelo ( - April 16, 2018 - 4:07pm

MANILA, Philippines — State prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman have asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to order former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for allegedly making false claims just to secure the court's permission to travel to the United States later this month.

In a motion for reconsideration filed before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on April 13, the ombudsman's prosecution panel asked the court to reconsider its earlier ruling allowing Estrada to stay in the US from April 30 to May 30.

Furthermore, the prosecution also prayed to the court to order Estrada to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for allegedly using a falsified invitation letter in support of his travel motion.

“The prosecution respectfully submits that the falsity of the invitation letter attached by accused Estrada to his Motion to Travel Abroad makes the motion misleading and deceiving, warranting the reconsideration of the Order granting the same,” the prosecution's appeal read.

“The exposure of the scheme employed, in effect, has dismantled the propriety of granting the travel,” it added.

It can be remembered that the Fifth Division had earlier granted Estrada's motion to travel despite the vehement objections of the prosecution.

In his motion filed on March 16, Estrada asked the court's permission for a one-month stay in the US for a vacation with his family, a medical check-up in connection with his “recurring” shoulder pains and to attend the event of the Filipino-American group US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG).

Estrada said he was invited by USPGG to be a guest speaker in its annual general membership meeting to be held in Sterling Heights, Michigan on May 20, 2018.

Estrada attached in his motion an invitation letter signed by USPGG-Michigan chapter head William Dechavez, asking the senator to be a speaker on current issues in the Philippines such as on extrajudicial killings, Dengvaxia mess and the administration's federalism plan.

The letter bears the official logo of USPGG.

However, in a press statement posted on its website a day after Estrada's travel request was granted by the court, USPGG chairperson Filipino-American philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and USPGG President Rodel Rodis denied issuing an invitation to the former senator.

READ: Group of Pinoys in US denies Jinggoy's speaking stint claim 

“USPGG Willie Dechavez did not invite Jinggoy Estrada to speak in Michigan under USPGG nor is any program being planned by USPGG Michigan since Willie Dechavez is on vacation in the Philippines,” the group's statement read.

The prosecution said allowing Estrada to still push through with the travel despite his alleged use of a falsified invitation letter “may constitute a travesty of justice.”

“The settled rule is that in the absence of satisfactory explanation, one found in possession of, and who used a forged document is a forger. If a person had in his possession a falsified document and he made use of it (uttered it), taking advantage of it and profiting thereby—the clear presumption is that he is the material author of the falsification,” the prosecution said.

In a hearing Monday morning, Fifth Division Chairman Associate Justice Rafael Lagos directed Estrada's legal team to submit its comment on the prosecution's motion for reconsideration within three days, after which, the motion is deemed submitted for resolution.

In a phone interview, Estrada maintained that the invitation letter he received from De Chavez was not forged.

“I never used any fake letter, I never misrepresented anyone,” Estrada said.

“These prosecutors are crazy to think that I would forge a letter just to be able to travel. Why would I fool the court, when I know that they can revoke my bail anytime?” he added.

Estrada is facing plunder and graft cases before the Fifth Division in connection with his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam.

He has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City since the filing of the cases in June 2014. But on Sept. 15, 2017, 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.

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