De Lima: Plunder case vs Jinggoy was 'strong' but I accept court's decision | Inquirer News

De Lima: Plunder case vs Jinggoy was ‘strong’ but I accept court’s decision

/ 02:59 PM January 19, 2024

MANILA, Philippines — While she believes the evidence against Senator Jinggoy Estrada in the plunder case regarding the pork barrel scam was strong enough, former senator and Liberal Party spokesperson Leila de Lima said she accepts the Sandiganbayan’s decision on Friday.

After Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division acquitted Estrada and pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles of plunder, de Lima said in a statement that she was curious to find out what part of the case was insufficient to merit a conviction.

De Lima, as Justice secretary under former President Benigno Aquino III, was part of the team that gathered evidence and filed the cases against Estrada and other senators dragged in the pork barrel scam.


“I’m curious to find out what element or elements of the crime of Plunder the Sandiganbayan deemed wanting and/or why the evidence was deemed insufficient to support a conviction for that crime. I believe that we had a strong case against Sen. Jinggoy when the DOJ-NBI Special Task Force filed the plunder complaint against him with the Ombudsman,” de Lima said.


“This was buttressed by the statements of the middlewoman Ruby Tuason who said she dealt directly with the senator and Napoles insofar as his PDAF [Priority Development Assistance] funds were concerned. Even Benhur Luy stated he personally delivered Jinggoy’s kickbacks to his secretary, Pauline Labayen, who had since then gone missing,” she added.

De Lima, however, stressed that there is still a chance that the Sandiganbayan ruling would be reversed once it is up for appeal before the Supreme Court.

“All the same, I accept the decision of the Sandiganbayan limiting the conviction to bribery and indirect bribery. If Sen. Jinggoy appeals this conviction, there is still a chance that the SC will modify this judgment to either an acquittal, on one hand, or a plunder conviction, on the other,” she noted.

“Of course, I have yet to read the decision to find out whether Sen. Jinggoy risks a plunder conviction with the SC if he still appeals the SB decision convicting him only of bribery. I am sure that is what his lawyers are already studying at this very moment. Because once they appeal to the SC, the SB judgment is opened wide for modifications, including a conviction for plunder, without violating the rule on double jeopardy,” she added.

Estrada may have been acquitted of plunder, but Sandiganbayan convicted him for one count of direct bribery and two counts of indirect bribery, sentencing him to a jail term of eight years as a minimum of up to nine years and four months for direct bribery, and two to three years for each count of indirect bribery.

Estrada, who was present during the case promulgation earlier, was also penalized with a special temporary disqualification from holding public office and temporarily absolute disqualification from the right of suffrage.


This plunder case against Estrada, Napoles, and others stemmed from transferring Estrada’s PDAF or pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Napoles.

The prosecution accused Estrada of accumulating ill-gotten wealth after he allegedly gained P55.79 million from the shady scheme, aside from being “an active participant in the conspiracy to commit plunder.”

Eventually, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division allowed Estrada and Napoles to file a demurrer to evidence or seek outright dismissal of the cases against them. But these were denied in June 2019, as it was established that he approved the transfer of his PDAF to Napoles’ NGOs.

Estrada is one of three senators charged with plunder concerning the pork barrel scam. The two others were incumbent Senator Bong Revilla, who was acquitted in December 2018, and former Senate president and current Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, who is out on bail in consideration of his advanced age.

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Estrada, Revilla, and Enrile ran for the Senate in the 2019 midterm elections, but only Revilla won. Estrada again sought a Senate seat in the 2022 polls and succeeded.

TAGS: De Lima, Jinggoy Estrada, Plunder, pork barrel scam

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