Sandiganbayan justices fail to appear on Jinggoy Estrada’s furlough bid hearing
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division justices failed to appear for the hearing over Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s request for Christmas and New Year furlough on Friday, days after their request for recusal was denied by the anti-graft court en banc.
The Fifth Division, composed of Chairman Associate Justice Roland Jurado and members Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Estoesta, set the hearing over Estrada’s furlough on Friday, but it only authorized the Clerk of Court to accept the parties’ written arguments for and against the request.
The court’s refusal to appear before the parties comes amid controversy over its request to inhibit from hearing Estrada’s plunder and graft cases, citing “personal reasons.”
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source said the entire Division wanted recusal due to pressure from “higher authorities” to junk Estrada’s bail bid.
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 inhibition.
State prosecutors have opposed Estrada’s move for a Christmas and New Year furlough as he faces trial for plunder over the pork barrel scam.
In its opposition, the prosecution said the requested furlough on December 25 and December 31, 2014 to January 1, 2015 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.
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 to spend the celebrations in his residence at Corinthian Hills and at North Greenhills.
He 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.
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 of pilfering lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to ghost projects for kickbacks under the purported scheme of Janet Lim-Napoles.
Meanwhile, another accused Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is under hospital detention for plunder. Napoles is locked up at the Camp Bagong Diwa female dormitory in Taguig.
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