Sandiganbayan denies recusal request in Jinggoy Estrada case
MANILA, Philippines–The Sandiganbayan en banc has denied the request of the Fifth Division justices to inhibit themselves from the plunder and graft cases of Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
The antigraft court found no sound reason for the request for recusal of the three justices, Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang was quoted in a television report Wednesday.
The Fifth Division chairman Associate Justice Roland Jurado and members Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Estoesta had written a letter to Tang requesting to be recused supposedly due to “personal reasons.”
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source, however, said the justices wanted to back out due to pressure from “higher authorities” to deny Estrada’s bail petition.
The source also said the decision of the Supreme Court to allow the Bureau of Internal Revenue to look into the statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN) of the Sandiganbayan magistrates had affected the justices’ decision.
Tang denied these speculations, saying the court remains to be guided by the merits of the case.
“Let me set the record straight, it has nothing to do with the release of our SALN… There has never been any pressure from Malacañang either. We continue to say that we will never be swayed by anyone. We will be guided by the evidence,” Tang said.
Estrada faces plunder and graft charges for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam, or the funneling of Priority Development Assistance Funds to ghost projects for kickbacks.
Estrada is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center with fellow accused Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, on the other hand, is under hospital detention also for plunder.
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