Sandigan upholds Jinggoy Estrada’s suspension from Senate
MANILA, Philippines—Saying his suspension will not paralyze the Senate, the Sandiganbayan ordered Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to serve his 90-day suspension from the upper chamber brought about by his plunder case.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Friday turned down Estrada’s appeal, saying the senator did not present new arguments to compel them to reverse their July 17 order.
The antigraft court had ordered Estrada suspended for 90 days, as provided under Republic Act No. 7080, or the antiplunder law.
Estrada, along with Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., is being tried for plunder for alleged diverting their pork barrel funds into bogus livelihood projects of dubious nongovernment organizations linked to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.
In appealing his suspension on Aug. 1, Estrada insisted that the court had not yet ruled on his petition questioning the validity of the preliminary investigation conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman on the plunder complaint against him.
He also said he had a similar pending appeal in the Supreme Court.
“As far as this court is concerned, due process was afforded the accused (Estrada), preliminary investigation was conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman and the information filed before the court is valid,” the three-member Fifth Division said in its ruling.
The court said Estrada’s suspension was “not likely to paralyze the operations of the Senate.”
The justices said they could have ordered the suspension on their own but the prosecution was “duty-bound” to formally ask for it in order to give Estrada the opportunity to challenge the proceedings.
The Sandiganbayan went on to dismiss Estrada’s claim that the prosecution wanted to have him serve a 90-day suspension for each of his one count of plunder and 11 counts of graft so that he would be suspended for a total of 1,080 days, or almost three years.
The court said Estrada’s belief was “uncalled for and [his] paranoia is unwarranted.”
Enrile and Revilla have been similarly ordered suspended for 90 days by the Sandiganbayan Third and First Divisions, respectively, which are handling their plunder cases.
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