Jinggoy bares Ombudsman prober’s extort try in pork inquiry
Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada claimed on Monday that an Ombudsman field investigator tried to extort money from him in exchange for downgrading his pork barrel scam charges, but said he would neither testify nor press charges against the personnel.
Neither did Estrada, in an interview at the sidelines of his first plunder trial hearing on Monday, stated other details such as how much the investigator supposedly asked for.
“Hindi naman directly sa ‘kin, through an emissary. Humihingi sila ng pera sa ‘kin. ‘Di ako pumayag, dahil alam ko malinis ang konsensya ko (Not directly to me, but through an emissary. They were asking for money from me. I did not agree, because I know my conscience is clear),” Estrada claimed.
“Para babaan daw yung kaso ko; imbis na plunder, graft na lang daw. Sabi ko, sige, tuloy niyo na ‘kako, wala akong tinatago (It’s so they would downgrade my case; instead of plunder, it would be just graft. I said, okay, go ahead, I have nothing to hide),” he added.
Estrada is facing both plunder and graft charges. But plunder is a more serious, non-bailable offense as it is punishable with life imprisonment. Graft, on the other hand, is a bailable offense that is usually penalized with six to 10 years imprisonment per count.
The senator, who was detained for plunder from June 2014 to September 2017, said the alleged extort try took place at the early stage of the investigation in late 2013.
However, he would neither testify at the fact-finding commission proposed by President Duterte nor initiate his own case.
“It’s useless. Noon talagang walang ano, talagang halos lahat ng tao, ni-brainwash ng nakaraang administrasyon na magnanakaw kami kaya wala kaming kalaban-laban. Ngayon, unti unti nang lumalabas na pinili kami (Before, almost everyone was brainwashed by the previous administration that we’re thieves and we were defenseless. Now, it’s slowly being revealed that we were just selected),” Estrada said.
Estrada likewise said that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has a “one-track mind” so he did not bother telling her either.
“Wala pang kaso, ni-prejudge na kami na guilty na kami. Pa’no ko susumbong ko sa kanya? (There wasn’t even a case, yet we were prejudged as guilty. How can I tell her?),” he said.
During the first plunder hearing, prosecutors presented Mae Castillon, acting chief of the compliance section of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) district office, to confirm Estrada’s submission of income tax returns for the years 2007 to 2012.
Likewise, Maria Lourdes Arbas, director of the Office of the Senate Secretary, confirmed having the custody of Estrada’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the years 2004 to 2013.
Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Ma. Christina Marallag-Batacan told the court that while Estrada’s declared wealth ranged from P83 million to P195 million, his annual income tax payments of P1 million to P5 million pales in comparison.
Defense lawyer Sabino Acut objected to the evidence and said these were “immaterial and irrelevant” to the allegations stated in the charge sheet.
Batacan argued that the “disparity of the income of Senator Estrada” compared to his tax payments would show “whether or not the income therein the SALN is a result of the kickbacks” he allegedly received in exchange for diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations to dubious foundations.
Meanwhile, defense lawyer Paul Mar Arias tried to grill another prosecution witness, Lolita Soriano, of the Commission on Audit, regarding the veracity of the documents used in the special audit report on Estrada’s transactions.
Despite Arias’ persistent questioning, Assistant State Prosecutor II Peter Jedd Boco clarified that Soriano only testified on her custodial capacity and the audit team members would be presented in another hearing to attest to the veracity of the documents. /kga
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