Jinggoy Estrada: SolGen's comment on Napoles will weaken PDAF cases
MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Jinggoy Estrada believes the plunder and graft cases against him and other lawmakers will be weakened by Solicitor General Jose Calida's comment on the serious illegal detention case that whistle-blower Benhur Luy filed against his former boss, Janet Lim Napoles.
"Definitely, I think so. I'm not a lawyer but I think the credibility of their main witness (Luy) ... siyempre madi-discredit 'yan (he will be discredited)," Estrada told reporters after his hearing at the Sandiganbayan 5th Division on Monday, March 6, over graft and plunder charges.
Luy is the star witness in the explosive scandal involving Estrada and two other former senators, Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and Juan Ponce Enrile, who were accused of pocketing millions of pesos in kickbacks from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Napoles was convicted by the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) of serious illegal detention after holding Luy hostage in a retreat house and a condominium unit to stop him from exposing the pork barrel scam.
But Calida filed a manifestation before the Court of Appeals (CA) last January saying that the court was wrong in convicting Napoles and that there was no sufficient evidence to prove Luy was detained.
"If there is truth na walang illegal detention on the part of accused Janet Napoles, siguro pinag-aralan ng SolGen 'yan nang mabuti at hindi naman siguro magsasalita ang Solicitor General na walang basehan," Estrada said.
(If there is truth to the claim that there was no illegal detention on the part of accused Janet Napoles, I assume the Solicitor General studied that carefully and he probably would not make such comments without basis.)
A report from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) quoted legal experts as saying that Calida's move would have an impact on the pork barrel scam cases.
A lawyer who was part of the team that audited the lawmakers' PDAF told the PCIJ: "Benhur gave a lot of documents. Certainly, the indirect impact of this is to question his credibility, and that of the other witnesses. That might be the point of this manifestation."
Calida distanced his manifestation from the pork barrel cases, saying then: "The manifestation anyway is only my legal opinion. It's just an opinion. It will be the justices who will decide." (READ: FACT CHECK: Where should the Solicitor General stand in Napoles' case?)
'De Lima's karma'
Estrada also hit Senator Leila de Lima anew for what he described as selective justice employed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) when it filed the charges against him, Revilla, and Enrile. De Lima had led the filing as justice secretary of the Aquino administration.
"Tatlong senator lang 'yung pinagdidiinan nila. Hindi ko alam kung bakit… Lahat naman ng in-endorse namin ay ginagawa rin ng ibang congressman, ibang senators, eh bakit kami lang ang pinili?" Estrada said.
(They pinned down only 3 senators. I don't know why. Other lawmakers also endorsed funds to non-governmental organizations. Why was it just the 3 of us?)
Estrada said De Lima's detention now, stemming from drug charges, is karma.
"Siguro na-experience niya 'yung na-experience namin noong araw na talagang siya mismo ang nagpupursige na halos siraan kami sa media, sa mata ng taumbayan. Bumalik siguro sa kanya," he said.
(Maybe she's experiencing what we experienced then, when she was always lambasting us in the media, in the eyes of the public. It's coming back to her now.)
Estrada was at the anti-graft court for his scheduled pre-trial over graft and plunder charges connected to the PDAF scam, but the 5th Division had to reset it one more time because the pre-trial order is not yet complete.
A pre-trial order is required to proceed to trial. Only issues specified in the order can be taken up in the hearings.
Estrada also has to sign each of the 500 pages of evidence included in the order, to certify the authenticity of the documents.
But Estrada's lawyer Paul Mar Arias asked the court to reduce the number of pages which need to be signed, citing his client's ailing shoulder.
Estrada earlier said his doctors advised him to undergo shoulder surgery because of persistent pain. Last January, he was also allowed to visit the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in San Juan City for knee pains.
The pre-trial was reset to April 17. – Rappler.com