Senator Estrada appeals suspension, cites pending plea in SC
MANILA, Philippines—Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has asked the Sandiganbayan to reverse its July 17 resolution suspending him as a member of the Senate in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
In a motion for reconsideration filed by his lawyers in the antigraft court’s Fifth Division on Friday, Estrada accused the government prosecutors of working for his ouster from the Senate by seeking his suspension despite a pending petition he had filed in the Supreme Court.
In that petition, the senator had asked the high tribunal to invalidate the filing of plunder and graft charges against him, claiming that the Ombudsman had deprived him of his right to due process.
He also challenged the validity of the criminal information the government prosecutors had filed against him.
“Senator Estrada has duly and timely challenged the validity of the proceedings against him, invoking his constitutional rights, and asked that the proceedings against him be declared null and void …,” Estrada’s 14-page appeal read in part.
“Given such challenge, the suspension of Senator Estrada is without legal or factual basis,” it said.
In appealing his 90-day suspension from office, Estrada cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Santiago versus Sandiganbayan which stated that the “suspension of a public official or employee is not automatic or self-operative when the accused has challenged the validity” of the criminal information filed against him.
“(P)rior to the (prosecution’s) motion seeking the suspension of Senator Estrada, the validity of the information in the instant case … had been questioned and is currently being litigated by the parties,” Estrada said.
He also told the court that the prosecution was engaged in forum shopping for asking the Fifth Division to declare the criminal information against him valid pending the Supreme Court’s decision on his petition.
In addition, he said, the prosecution’s move to suspend him from office was “made in bad faith, designed to punish him and to deprive his constituents of his representation for as long as possible, which is practically equivalent to removal from office.”
Estrada, who is being held in a temporary detention facility at Camp Crame, Quezon City, also questioned why the prosecution only sought his suspension over the plunder case and not for several counts of graft.
“The intention of the strategy (of the prosecution) … is quite evident: It is to nullify Senator Estrada’s right to hold office and also deprive his constituents of his representation,” he said.
In meting out the suspension order on Estrada, the Sandiganbayan said the senator’s claim that his constituents would be paralyzed by his suspension was “remote,” pointing out that there were 21 other senators who could carry out the functions and responsibilities of Estrada as a senator.
“The Senate President will surely know how to deal with the problem of filling the temporary vacancies in accordance with the provisions of the rules of the Senate,” the court said in its minute resolution.
“It must be stressed that this court … has found the existence of probable cause and ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the accused. In view of the finding of existence of probable cause, the information is said to be sufficient in form and substance,” it ruled.
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