Sandigan denies Jinggoy bail plea
The lightning struck twice for poor Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has denied the bail petition of detained senator Jinggoy Estrada from his plunder charge over the pork barrel scam.
Also denied bail is the accused mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Estrada’s lawyer Atty. Alexis Abastillas-Suarez in a phone interview confirmed the denial of Estrada’s bail.
She said the law office of Estrada’s counsel Atty. Sabino Acut Jr. received a copy of the 200-page resolution Thursday evening.
However, Suarez refused to comment because Estrada’s counsels are still going through the resolution.
“I will confirm (that Estrada’s bail was denied). It consists of 200 pages. Hindi pa namin nababasa, so hindi pa kami makapag-comment,” Suarez said.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor confirmed scoring against Estrada.
“The Office of the Special Prosecutor confirms the bail petition of Senator Estrada has been denied by the Sandiganbayan,” said Atty. Rawnsle Lopez, acting director of the Ombudsman Public Information and Media Relations Bureau, in a text message.
In a copy of the resolution uploaded on the Sandiganbayan website, the court sounded literary in denying the bail by stressing that the phrase “lightning never strikes the same place twice” does not apply to Estrada.
“One cannot think ill of the saying ‘lightning never strikes the same place twice’ for it is now the standing paradox to Senator Estrada’s case,” the court ruled in the 215-page resolution promulgated Jan. 7. It was signed by the three Fifth Division Associate Justices Roland Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo, and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta. There was no ponente indicated.
The court said above the allegations of politicking by the Office of the Special Prosecutor, it was able to prove strong evidence of Estrada’s guilt.
The denial of bail, however, does not mean Estrada is guilty beyond reasonable doubt of plunder, the court said.
“Emptied of all public insinuations and political overtones that has incessantly hovered over this case from the beginning, and while this ruling does not portend to be a judgement of conviction for both accused, this Court has found that the prosecution has established a strong evidence of guilt to deny the petitions of both accused,” the court said.
Apex of PDAF scam
The court went on to say Estrada in his second plunder case before the Sandiganbayan is the “apex of the PDAF scam.”
This is because Estrada endorsed to the implementing agencies the bogus foundations which turned out to be ghost projects using his PDAF.
The court copy pasted in its resolution Estrada’s letters of endorsement of these bogus foundations, such as the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation and the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, which were both linked to Napoles.
“Once the context and purpose of a PDAF allocation is fathomed, it should behoove Senator Estrada to fully realize that that it was his own legislative fiat which actually determined how such funds were utilized. As the lawmaker who preselected not only the implementing agency but also went as far as indorsing an NGO for the implementation of his priority projects, no amount of buffering should shield Senator Estrada from an apparent liability under the present charge,” the court said.
“Together with the private accused Napoles… Senator Estrada is, as prosecution evidence would strongly show, at the apex of the ‘PDAF scam,'” the court said.
The court also took credence on the testimony of state witness Ruby Tuason and finance officer Benhur Luy against Estrada.
Luy has testified that Estrada received millions of kickbacks from Napoles as recorded in his ledger of transactions with lawmakers. Meanwhile, Tuason, the former social secretary of Jinggoy’s father, said she has delivered millions of kickbacks stored in duffel bags to Estrada at the family-owned Zirkoh bar or at his Senate office.
Tuason’s fickle memory
The court said even while Tuason struggled in remembering the amounts of the kickbacks she delivered, this does not discredit her as a witness.
“Human memory is fickle and prone to the stresses of emotions and the passage of time… She may not have taken an effort to particularly know how much money was inside the bag to be delivered… but this disparity is not too substantial to disparage her worth as a witness,” the court said.
“Instead, it is Ruby Tuason’s positive account that she personally delivered the kickbacks given by Napoles to Senator Estrada himself which commands serious consideration,” it added.
Luy’s ledger an investigator’s ‘oasis’
The court also considered as presumptive evidence Luy’s daily financial records because these are regular records. The court said because of Luy’s ledger may not be considered hearsay.
The court even considered Luy’s financial ledger as detailed and complex, meticulously recorded on a regular basis, which makes it an “oasis” to the investigators of the PDAF scam.
“Like a map plotting out specific target points on which way to veer, the daily disbursement record entries are a virtual oasis to an investigator’s keen eye, unraveling details which proved significant in baring what were perceived to be anomalies in the PDAF transactions of lawmakers, including Senator Estrada in this case,” the court said.
Jinggoy is Juan Ng
The court also cited the explosive bank inquiry report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council, (AMLC), which bared alleged conduits Juan Ng and Francis Yenko used by Estrada to stow away his alleged millions of kickbacks from the scam.
The court even noted the AMLC’s finding that Estrada’s signatures are similar to those of the unconventional signatures of Juan Ng, as shown in the checks issued to both Ng and Yenko.
The court copy pasted screenshots of these supposed checks to show that Estrada’s signature is similar to Juan Ng’s.
Ng even had a bank account which directly received P9.75 million from Napoles’ own Metrobank account, the court said.
The court said because some checks issued from Ng’s bank accounts using his unconventional signature bore the striking similarity with that of Estrada, it could mean Estrada directly controlled Ng’s bank accounts.
“The observation of AMLC on the close similarity of the ‘unconventional’ signature of Juan Ng and that of Senator Estrada cannot be shrugged off easily… On the basis of the findings made, one need not actually resort to a handwriting expert to spot the general likeness in the surface appearance of the loops and strokes that are instantly evident in the contested signatures,” the court said.
The court even showed two checks separately signed by Ng and Estrada, and yet the penmanship bearing the addressee Yenko look similar. This bolsters claim that Estrada and Ng are one and the same.
“While the Juan Ng accounts may not be considered for the purpose of arriving at the threshold amount in the bail petitions, it has been perceived that such accounts have provided a solid basis in bolstering the conduit scheme resorted to in this case,” the court said.
It took the court over a year to decide on the petition since it first conducted hearings on July 2014.
Estrada is accused of receiving P183 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) through alleged ghost projects using the bogus foundations of accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
He is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center with colleague Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. Revilla’s bail plea was denied by the Sandiganbayan in Dec. 2014 just months after he surrendered June 2014.
Not lucky as before
This dashed Estrada’s hopes because the detained senator earlier expressed confidence that he would be granted bail like before in the jueteng case of his father the deposed President Joseph Estrada.
JInggoy was jailed with his father in 2001 for plunder over illegal jueteng money, the charge which propelled the aborted impeachment trial of former President Estrada.
In 2001, the younger Estrada, then San Juan Mayor, was charged with conspiring with his father “in amassing and acquiring through ill-gotten wealth from illegal gambling through any or a combination or a series of overt or criminal acts or similar schemes or means.”
In March 2003, after two years in detention, Jinggoy was allowed bail, after the Sandiganbayan found that the ex-mayor probably collected “jueteng” protection money but only for his “own selfish needs” and not in “conspiracy” with his father.
In 2007, Joseph Estrada was convicted of plunder, but then President Gloria Arroyo pardoned him barely two months after. Jinggoy, meanwhile, was acquitted.
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