Estrada says he won’t ask for special treatment
MANILA, Philippines—Faced with the prospect of arrest in the pork barrel scam, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada balked at the idea of a special detention facility on Friday, saying he was ready to be thrown in a regular jail.
But his colleague, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., said it was too early to talk about detention because the Ombudsman has not filed any case against them in the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.
Where the accused will be held pending trial would be at the discretion of the court, said President Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda.
“No,’’ Estrada replied when Senate reporters asked him in a phone-patch interview from Los Angeles, California, if he would ask for a special detention place.
Estrada said he was ready for a regular jail. “Do I have a choice? We don’t have a choice. I’m not thinking of it,’’ he added.
Joel Bodegon, counsel for Revilla who has flown with his family to the Holy Land, said it was premature to talk about throwing them in jail when no information has been filed against them in the Sandiganbayan.
“That is getting ahead of the story. The case is not with the Sandiganbayan yet. The process should not be preempted,’’ Bodegon told the Inquirer.
On the matter of a special detention facility, Bodegon said he and the senator have not talked about it.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago had said that Estrada, Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile should be automatically suspended and thrown in a regular jail as soon as the case is filed in the Sandiganbayan.
The Ombudsman announced Tuesday that there was enough basis to take the senators, alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and several others to trial but was giving them time to ask for a reconsideration of its decision to indict them in court.
The scam, which has riveted the country for months, involved the conversion of up to P10 billion in lawmakers’ pork barrel funds into kickbacks over 10 years beginning with the Arroyo administration.
Lacierda said the decision of where the accused would be detained lay with the Sandiganbayan. He said the government would enforce the ruling of the anti-graft court on this.
“I suppose that is the discretion of the court,’’ he said when asked if the senators would be placed under hospital arrest like former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center on plunder and electoral sabotage charges.
Estrada rebuffed calls by the Scrap Pork Network, a group of netizens that mounted a massive anti-pork barrel rally last year, for him and his colleagues to resign.
“I won’t go on a leave of absence. I’m innocent, and I have a clean conscience. Those calling for a leave of absence have an ambition,’’ he said.
Bodegon agreed, and said Revilla would stay on as senator.
“Senator Bong Revilla maintains his innocence of the charges against him, and he sees no reason for him to resign,’’ Bodegon said.
The three senators had filed counter-affidavits with the Ombudsman strongly denying any wrongdoing.
The matter of going on leave was “better addressed to the judgment’’ of the senators, Lacierda said.
Estrada said his lawyers would file a motion for reconsideration in the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, but didn’t expect a favorable ruling.
“I’m sure that will be thrown out,’’ he said. ”I am prepared for any eventuality.’’
Estrada also squelched speculation he would evade prosecution by staying abroad. He said he would fly back to Manila on April 21 in time for his speaking engagement at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila the next day.
“Wait for me at the airport,’’ he said.
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