Prosecutors: Evidence strong against Jinggoy Estrada
MANILA, Philippines—Government prosecutors insisted that the plunder case against Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada is strong despite testimony of a Commission on Audit (COA) official that there was no evidence linking him to the pork barrel scam.
COA Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia in her testimony during the continuation of Estrada’s bail hearing at the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division said the notices of disallowance which COA issued in 2012 were addressed to pork scam principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy and fellow witness Merlina Suñas as presidents of the two alleged fake foundations which received millions of pesos from Estrada’s pork barrel allotments.
A notice of disallowance is a document ordering the accountable public officer or government agency to return the public funds used to finance anomalous state-funded projects.
In the case of Estrada, Garcia said the special audit covering the senator’s PDAF from 2007 to 2009 did not reveal any document to prove that he had received over P183 million in kickbacks from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
But Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano who is in charge of monitoring and assisting the Ombudsman prosecutors in the PDAF case said Notice of disallowance is not a prerequisite in filing a criminal case plunder case
“Even without notice of disallowance, if we have evidence to prove elements of crime, we can file the case…Here, we have testimonies and documentary evidence,” Justiniano said.
On the other hand, Ombudsman Spokesman Asryman Rafanan said Garcia is not in the position to say whether Estrada benefitted or not.
“She was presented [as witness] for the audit of the PDAF funds…It is like a doctor cannot testify who killed the victim,” he said.
The prosecutors said there are other witnesses to be presented in due time.