Sandiganbayan denies Jinggoy Estrada holiday furlough
MANILA, Philippines–The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division denied Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s request for a Christmas and New Year furlough as he faces trial for plunder over the pork barrel scam.
In a resolution promulgated Friday, the antigraft court denied Estrada’s request as it would set a “bad precedent” and would make a “mockery of the administration of justice.”
“(Estrada), being a detention prisoner, cannot be allowed the full enjoyment of his rights, be it civil or political, just like all other detention prisoners… We agree with the prosecution that to allow the accused to leave his detention cell will not only set a bad precedent, but will likewise be regarded as a mockery of the administration of justice,” the resolution read.
The court said denying Estrada’s furlough request does not indicate that the court finds him guilty of the charges against him.
“The inherent and consequent restraint in some of his rights does not run counter to the constitutional presumption of his innocence…” it added.
The fifth division justices made the decision amid controversy surrounding their request to inhibit from Estrada’s plunder and graft cases for “personal reasons.”
The justices—fifth division chairman Associate Justice Roland Jurado and members Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Estoesta—failed to appear for its hearing on Estrada’s furlough set on Friday.
They only authorized the clerk of court to accept the parties’ written arguments for and against the furlough request.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source said the entire division wanted to be recused due to pressure from “higher authorities” to junk Estrada’s bail plea.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang denied that Malacañang is exerting pressure on the court, saying they continue to be guided by evidence.
The Sandiganbayan en banc denied the division’s request for a recusal, saying it found no compelling reason for the justices to inhibit.
In Estrada’s request for furlough, he asked the court’s permission to spend Christmas, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at his father’s place in North Greenhills, San Juan. He is the son of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, who was convicted for plunder over jueteng money but was later pardoned.
Senator Estrada also asked for a New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day furlough in his residence at Corinthian Hills and at North Greenhills.
Estrada requested the furlough with the usual security escorts at his own expense.
“The requested days for furlough are indubitably the only days in the year where family traditions of being together are of no question. In accused family, being together to honor the birth of our Lord is one of the most honored and respected traditions,” the motion read.
In its opposition, state prosecutors said Estrada’s requested furlough has no legal basis.
The panel said Estrada merely relied on the “compassion of the court,” adding that to grant Estrada’s furlough is to give him special treatment.
“Allowing Estrada to be given furlough to be able to join his family ‘to honor the birth of our Lord’ would be a display of partiality in his favor. As a detention prisoner, accused should not be treated differently from all other prisoners who may want to visit their families during the holidays,” the opposition read.
Estrada is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center with Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. as they face trial for plunder over their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam. The scheme, allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles, funneled the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to ghost projects for kickbacks.
On the other hand, coaccused Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is under hospital detention. Napoles is locked up at the Camp Bagong Diwa female dormitory in Taguig.
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