Jing­goy out on bail

Manila Bulletin - - Front Page - By CZARINA NI­COLE O. ONG

For­mer Sen­a­tor Jing­goy Estrada on Satur­day walked free from de­ten­tion af­ter com­plet­ing the fi­nal pro­ce­dure of his bail process.

He sub­mit­ted him­self to fin­ger-print­ing and sign­ing of doc­u­ments be­fore he was fi­nally re­united with his fam­ily and gave thanks to God at the Pi­nagla­banan Church in San Juan City.

Estrada ap­peared in high spir­its with his fam­ily, who ac­com-

panied him all the way from Camp Crame in Que­zon City. With him were wife Precy and chil­dren, San Juan Vice Mayor Janella, Ju­lian Emilio, Joseph Luis Manuel, and Juli­enne. His brother Jude was also present.

In an in­ter­view with re­porters, Estrada said he has no words to ex­plain how he feels, adding that God and the mag­is­trates of the Sandi­gan­bayan are to be thanked for his new­found free­dom.

Estrada was sent to jail over three years ago af­ter he was charged with plun­der in re­la­tion to the il­le­gal use of his 1183-mil­lion Pri­or­ity De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund (PDAF), which went to fic­ti­tious non-govern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim Napoles.

Plun­der is a non-bail­able of­fense, but the Sandi­gan­bayan Fifth Di­vi­sion re­cently voted 3-2 to al­low him to post bail. Be­cause of this, Estrada said he can now at­tend his trial with­out po­lice­men and guards watch­ing over him. “I'm a free man al­ready, but I would still re­li­giously at­tend the hear­ings of my plun­der case,” he com­mit­ted.

He also main­tained his in­no­cence on the charges against him and left ev­ery­thing to the court's rul­ing. “I deny all the al­le­ga­tions against me, wala po ako ni­nakaw (I stole noth­ing),” he said.

Estrada was in such a good mood that he even cracked ca­sual jokes about what he plans to do now that he is out of jail. “Ha­ha­likan ko lagi [ang] asawa ko, (I will kiss my wife very of­ten),” he said in a jest.

De­spite the hap­pi­ness he feels af­ter be­ing re­leased from jail, Estrada ad­mit­ted he felt sad to parted with long-time friend and for­mer col­league, ex-sen­a­tor Ra­mon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who is still de­tained for his al­leged in­volve­ment in the same PDAF scam.

He is “pray­ing hard” that Revilla will also be granted bail soon. “Sabi ko lakasan niya loob niya, at balang araw at makakamit din niya ang kalayaan niya, (I told him to stay strong, since one day he will get his free­dom, too)."

Be­fore he ap­peared, his lawyers al­ready paid his bail bond for plun­der and graft, which to­talled to 11,330,000 – P1 mil­lion for plun­der, and 1330,000 for his 11 graft charges.

Estrada ex­pressed grat­i­tude to the votes of As­so­ciate Jus­tices Ma. Theresa Men­doza-Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz, and Lorifel Pahimna. On the other hand, As­so­ciate Jus­tices Rafael La­gos and Zaldy Te­spe­ses of­fered dis­sent­ing opin­ions to his bail grant.

The 15-page Fifth Di­vi­sion res­o­lu­tion al­lowed Estrada to post bail be­cause he is not the “main plun­derer” in the con­tro­ver­sial PDAF scam. The court caved into his ar­gu­ment that as­sum­ing the scheme was in­deed per­pe­trated, it was done not sin­gu­larly by Estrada, but also by other law­mak­ers.

“Al­though there is ev­i­dence to show that there were glar­ing ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in the dis­burse­ment of ac­cused Estrada's PDAF al­lo­ca­tions and that he re­ceived a sum of money from his par­tic­i­pa­tion in these ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties, there is no strong ev­i­dence to show that he is a main plun­derer within the con­tem­pla­tion of the plun­der law," the res­o­lu­tion reads.

The court said that the ev­i­dence on record does not re­ally show which per­son was in­tended to be en­riched or ben­e­fit­ted, so there is "con­fu­sion" as to who is the main ben­e­fi­ciary of the en­tire scam.

The pros­e­cu­tion has es­tab­lished that Napoles is the "cat­a­lyst" in the scheme, and she was the one who es­tab­lished its net­work and is there­fore con­sid­ered the "epi­cen­ter." "There is also ev­i­dence de­tail­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of ac­cused Napoles, whose con­trol over the scheme ap­pears to be ex­ten­sive," the res­o­lu­tion adds.

Estrada ac­tu­ally sought to have his case dis­missed, ar­gu­ing that there is in­suf­fi­ciency of ev­i­dence against him. But the court ruled oth­er­wise, say­ing there was no de­fect in his charge sheets that would war­rant a dis­missal of his case.

So even though Estrada is now out of his de­ten­tion cell, his plun­der trial will still push through on Mon­day and ev­ery other Mon­day af­ter that.

Mean­while, Estrada said Pres­i­dent Duterte's state­ment about se­lec­tive jus­tice be­ing im­ple­mented in the PDAF scam is true. He said there were sev­eral other public of­fi­cials af­fil­i­ated with a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal party who man­aged to slip un­der the radar, while he and oth­ers iden­ti­fied with the op­po­si­tion were im­me­di­ately charged with plun­der.

Still, Estrada is not clos­ing down the doors on pol­i­tics and said he will "cross the bridge when he gets there."

(Mark Bal­mores)

OUT ON BAIL – For­mer Sen­a­tor Jing­goy Estrada (left) is wel­comed by his mother Dr. Loi Ejercito and sis­ter Jacky (right) in a restau­rant in San Juan City af­ter he was al­lowed by the Sandi­gan­bayan to post P1.330-mil­lion bail for plun­der and graft charges in con­nec­tion with the pork bar­rel scam.

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