Former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is facing plunder and graft cases, said he was invited by Filipino-American group US Pinoys for Good Governance to be a guest speaker in its annual general membership meeting to be held in Sterling Heights, Michigan on May 20, 2018. But the chairperson and president of the groupv denied issuing any invitation to Estrada.
Philstar.com/File
Sandigan affirms Jinggoy's US trip
Elizabeth Marcelo (philstar.com) - April 27, 2018 - 1:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Fifth Division of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has upheld its earlier ruling allowing former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to stay in the United States for one month starting next week.

In a minute resolution promulgated on April 24, released to the media Friday, the Fifth Division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution panel seeking the reversal of the court's previous ruling allowing Estrada to travel to the United States from April 30 to May 30.

The Fifth Division said the prosecution failed to substantiate its allegation that Estrada forged an invitation letter from the Filipino-American group US Pinoys for Good Governance just to secure the court's nod for his travel request.

“Given the death of evidence to back up the prosecution's motion, this Court is not persuaded to reconsider the resolution granting accused permission to travel abroad,” the Fifth Division's ruling read.

It can be remembered that 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 a supposed event of the 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 former 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 on March 26, USPGG Chairperson Filipino-American philanthropist Loida Nicolas Lewis and USPGG President Rodel Rodis denied issuing any invitation to the former senator.

In its ruling, the Fifth Division said that other than the mere statement of denial by Lewis and Rodis, the prosecution failed to present any other evidence to prove that Dechavez' invitation letter was forged.

The court said the prosecution could not even state any efforts it has undertaken to authenticate that no invitation letter was sent to Estrada or that the invitation letter bearing the signature of Dechavez was forged.

“As such, this Court cannot give any credence to the prosecution's claim. Hearsay evidence has no probative value whatsoever and therefore, cannot be the basis for overturning this Court's earlier ruling,” the Fifth Division said.

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 September 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.

GRAFT AND CORRUPTION JINGGOY ESTRADA
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