Estrada joins Revilla in detention on Monday
MANILA, Philippines–Barring last-minute hitches, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada will join his bosom buddy and fellow movie actor, Sen. Bong Revilla, in the rat-and-cockroach-infested Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame on Monday.
A Sandiganbayan official said Sunday that the antigraft court would order Estrada’s arrest on Monday on charges of plunder and graft in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
The Sandiganbayan official, who refused to be named for lack of authority to speak for the court, said the warrants for the arrest of Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile were drafted on Friday, but the signing of the warrant for Enrile could take a few days.
Estrada will not wait for the arrest warrant to be served on him. He told the Inquirer on Saturday night that he would surrender as soon as he learned that the warrant for his arrest was out.
But there won’t be a 10-vehicle convoy, no busloads of screaming fans, no speeches and no threat to run for Malacañang in 2016.
Estrada said he would turn himself in at the Sandiganbayan “quietly,” but he would ask the court to allow him bail.
“That is what’s important to me at this point,” he said, insisting that he would be acquitted if given a “fair trial.”
Estrada is accused of pocketing P183 million of his pork barrel allocations, a charge that he denies and blames on politicking by the administration of President Aquino.
His best friend Revilla, who surrendered to the Sandiganbayan on Friday accompanied by family members, rowdy political supporters and screaming fans, is accused of plundering the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and pocketing P242 million in kickbacks from businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the pork barrel scam.
Estrada, Revilla, Enrile, Napoles and five others were indicted by the Ombudsman in the Sandiganbayn on June 6.
Enrile allegedly pocketed P172.8 million in kickbacks from Napoles’ phantom projects funded with his allocations from the PDAF.
His lawyer Estelito Mendoza said by text message Sunday that there was “no need to rush” the arrest. “JPE (Enrile’s initials) is not going anywhere,” Mendoza said.
‘Rounding up’ opposition
Estrada’s half-brother, Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, on Sunday said the Aquino administration was “rounding up” members of the political opposition.
Ejercito cited the filing of plunder charges against Estrada, Enrile and Revilla, and the report that another opposition legislator, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, would be the next one to be charged in the Office of the Ombudsman.
Revilla, who has been talking about running for President from jail since last week, topped the 2010 senatorial election with 19,513,521 votes while Estrada, said to have his eyes on the vice-presidential race in 2016, placed second with more than 18 million votes.
Ejercito said he, too, had received information that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) would try to nail him for “overspending” during the 2013 senatorial campaign.
“I hope this is just a coincidence and this is not true,” he said on Nimfa Ravelo’s radio program on dzBB. “But if they take us all out, there will be no opposition left against the Aquino administration.”
Estrada earlier lambasted Ejercito for signing the Senate blue ribbon committee report recommending the filing of plunder cases against him, Enrile and Revilla.
Flashbacks of 2001
On the eve of his arrest, Estrada admitted he was seeing flashbacks of 2001 when he was also arrested on plunder charges.
“Here we go again, I’m being persecuted all over again,” he said.
Estrada spent two years in jail but was eventually acquitted. Now he is confident he will be cleared sooner by the Sandiganbayan.
To this end, he said he would instruct his lawyers—three teams of legal experts led by Jose Flaminiano—to ask the Sandiganbayan to hold “marathon hearings.”
“Like before, I will again prove to my critics, to my persecutors that I will be acquitted because there is really no case against me,” he said.
“I want marathon hearings to prove my innocence,” he added.
At the Sandiganbayan, he said he would be accompanied by his parents, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and former Sen. Luisa Ejercito, his wife and their children.
The scene, he said, should be unlike the one on Friday when Revilla surrendered to the Sandiganbayan. Revilla traveled in a 10-vehicle convoy and brought his own camera crew to document his “voluntary submission.”
Not thinking of elections
Unlike Revilla, who was tying the arrest to his plan to run for President in 2016, Estrada said he was not thinking of the elections two years from now.
“What’s important to me is to prove my innocence,” said the senator, who admitted getting “legal advice” and “moral support” from Vice President Jejomar Binay, his presumed running mate in 2016.
On Saturday, Estrada took his family to a hotel for an overnight stay, their final “bonding” before his new incarceration.
On Sunday, he and his family spent the afternoon at his father’s house on Polk Street, in San Juan City, for their regular Sunday reunion.
Estrada said he had made arrangements with the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) for his surrender so that policemen would not have to pick him up.
“But if they still want to put me in handcuffs, that would be fine,” he said. “We are now at the mercy of these people, so what can we do?”
For his second detention in 13 years, Estrada said he planned to bring only clothes and medicine for his acid reflux. If allowed by the court, he said, he would bring an iPad.
In the case of Enrile, who was charged with plunder and 11 counts of graft, the Sandiganbayan source said it could take a few days or weeks before an arrest warrant could be issued depending on the “mood” of the Third Division, which handles the charges against the Senate minority leader.
During Friday’s hourlong oral arguments, Associate Justice Samuel Martires, a member of the Third Division, assured Mendoza that he would read all 9,000 pages of evidence submitted by the Ombudsman and that he would not be swayed by public opinion. His peers in the Third Division are Associate Justices Amparo Cabotaje-Tang (chair) and Alex Quiroz.
“It is the responsibility of all the members of the court, not just Justice Martires, to look and evaluate admissibility and probative value of the approximately 10,000 [documents] submitted that JPE received P172 million and how,” Mendoza said in his text message on Sunday.
Martires had admitted to having been castigated for his participation in the Sandiganbayan’s grant of plea bargain to former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, which it was later forced to abandon by the Supreme Court.
The Sandiganbayan source said it was difficult to “fathom” what direction the Third Division was taking on Enrile’s case, especially since it had yet to act on the appeal of Enrile’s coaccused and the motion of his former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, to suspend the proceedings on grounds that she was denied a copy of the “principal evidence” (state witness Ruby Tuason’s testimony) against her.
The Sandiganbayan source pointed out that the antigraft court normally avoids issuing piecemeal decisions on its cases.
Cavite Rep. Elpido Barzaga Jr. said Enrile’s case could be delayed, especially if the three members of the Third Division failed to reach a unanimous decision in finding probable cause for his prosecution.
In such a case, Barzaga said that under its rules of procedures, two justices would be added to the Third Division to reach the minimum three votes needed to proceed with the case.
Originally posted: 8:02 pm | Sunday, June 22nd, 2014