Estrada re­leased on bail af­ter spend­ing 3 years in prison for plun­der

Sun.Star Pampanga - - NATION! -

AF­TER spend­ing more than three years be­hind bars for plun­der and graft, for­mer Sen­a­tor Jose “Jing­goy” Estrada has been granted re­lease on bail.

The Spe­cial 5th Divi­sion has de­cided to al­low Estrada to be re­leased on a P1.33 mil­lion bail af­ter it found that “the ev­i­dence has not strongly es­tab­lished ac­cused Estrada as the main plun­derer.”

Estrada was re­leased from the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice (PNP) Cus­to­dial Cen­ter in Camp Crame, Que­zon City, around 12:30 p.m.

From his de­ten­tion cell, the for­mer sen­a­tor was trans­ported to the Sandi­gan­bayan to face the court for the ap­pli­ca­tion of his bail.

Estrada is ex­pected to re­turn home with his fam­ily in Que­zon City af­ter his of­fi­cial rel ease.

Estrada, in an in­ter­view, said he was “very elated” that he was now a “free man” af­ter the anti-graft court ap­proved his pe­ti­tion to post bail.

“I can’t ex­press my feel­ings right now but cer­tainly, I’m very, very happy. I’m very elated. I would like to thank our Lord God for giv­ing me this op­por­tu­nity. I would like to thank the mag­is­trates of the Sandi­gan­bayan for ap­prov­ing my pe­ti­tion for bail. And I would like to thank all my fam­ily and my sup­port­ers for their nonend­ing prayers for me,” he said.

“I’m a free man al­ready but I will al­ways re­li­giously at­tend the hear­ing of my plun­der case,” he added.

The Sandi­gan­bayan Fifth Divi­sion has voted 3-2 to grant Estrada’s plea to post bail for his tem­po­rary lib­erty.

As­so­ciate Jus­tices Maria Theresa Men­doza­Arcega, Rey­naldo Cruz, and Lorifel Pahimna voted in Estrada’s fa­vor, while As­so­ciate Jus­tices Rafael La­gos and Zaldy Tre­spe­ses dis­sented.

The court has set the bail at P1 mil­lion for charges if plun­der and P330,000 for 11 counts of graft charges.

As­so­ciate Jus­tice Edgardo Cal­dona signed a re­lease or­der im­me­di­ately af­ter the pay­ment of cash bail bonds, declar­ing that all cases are “lifted and de­clared of no fur­ther force and ef­fect in­so­far as ac­cused Jose Jing­goy P. Estrada is con­cerned.”

Estrada was ac­cused of pock­et­ing P183.793 mil­lion in kick­backs from du­bi­ous projects im­ple­mented by the du­bi­ous non-gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions of pur­ported pork bar­rel scam mas­ter­mind Janet Napol es.

The Of­fice of the Om­buds­man filed plun­der and graft charges against Estrada in June 2014, a ground for the Sandi­gan­bayan to or­der his ar­rest a month af­ter the fil­ing of cases.

The court de­nied Estrada’s first bail pe­ti­tion in Jan­uary 2016 cit­ing “strong ev­i­dence” against the for­mer law­maker.

He lodged the se­cond plea to post bail in Septem­ber 2016, fol­low­ing the state­ment of Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte said Estrada and for­mer sen­a­tor Ra­mon “Bong” Revilla Jr. should be granted bail if the ev­i­dence against them is weak.

Estrada is among the three for­mer sen­a­tors al­legedly in­volved in multi­bil­lion-peso pork bar­rel scam, along with Revilla and for­mer sen­a­tor Juan Ponce En­rile.

En­rile was freed on bail in 2015 while Revilla re­mains in de­ten­tion while his case is on trial. (Ruth Abbey Gita/ SunS­tar Philip­pines)

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