Jinggoy loses plea to do Senate duties in detention
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan fifth division denied Monday Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s request to perform his duties as Senator while in detention.
Estrada is held at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police after the Sandiganbayan ordered his arrest on plunder and graft charges in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
In a decision, the anti-graft court hearing Estrada’s case said the senator’s motion for leave has no merit.
The court said Estrada could not cite his position in the Senate as a defense that he could still function as senator while in detention.
The court said citing his position as senator would mean he is making himself different from the same class of prisoners whose freedom are limited as they face charges.
“We, therefore find that election to the position of senator is not a reasonable classification in criminal law enforcement. The functions and duties of the office are not substantial distinctions, which lift him from the class of prisoners interrupted in their freedom and restricted in liberty of movement. Lawful arrest and confinement are germane to the purposes of the law and apply to all those belonging to the same class,” the decision read.
The court also reminded Estrada that he is suspended as senator for 90 days as he faces the criminal charges. The Senate has enforced the Sandiganbayan’s order suspending him on September 2.
The court ordered Estrada’s suspension to prevent the senator from using his position to influence witnesses or tamper with evidence.
“The sole objective of which (suspension) is to prevent the accused from hampering the normal course of the investigation with his influence and authority over possible witnesses or to keep him off the records and other evidence….” the decision read.
In his motion for leave, Estrada said a senator holding office while in detention is not new. He cited the case of Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who was allowed to conduct hearings in 2007 and 2010 while he was detained for treason for the failed Oakwood mutiny.
Estrada said Trillanes was even allowed to have committee hearings in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, where Estrada is now detained for plunder.
“Senator Estrada has no intention of shirking away from his duty as Senator and as chairman of the Senate committee… Neither would he allow himself to be the cause of delay in enacting the priority bills,” the motion read.
In the motion, Estrada said he chairs the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development, which is evaluating 168 pending bills, 12 of which are priority pieces of legislation.
Estrada was charged with plunder and graft over the pork barrel scam, of which billions of state funds were allegedly funneled to ghost projects for kickbacks under the scheme of alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Napoles, and Estrada’s co-accused Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. are also detained over the scam.
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