MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Jinggoy Estrada follows his friend, ex-senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, to be scheduled for a plunder trial over the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Three years after being charged before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, Estrada will face a full-blown trial beginning June 19 in connection with the P183 million in supposed kickbacks he got from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
During his hearing on Monday, April 17, the Sandiganbayan 5th Division terminated the pre-trial period and ordered that the case proceed to trial despite a motion from Estrada’s camp to go over documents one more time.
The prosecution submitted additional evidence not included in an earlier list, and Estrada’s lawyers wanted to examine them first.
Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, the 5th Division’s chairperson, instead scheduled a day – April 24 – where both sides can resolve documentary issues so there are no more delays.
The court also set the signing of the pre-trial order for May 2. A pre-trial order is a required document that provides guidelines for what may be tackled during trial.
Disagreements stemming from the pre-trial order had delayed Revilla’s trial for 3 months, owing partly to strategies used by the former senator’s new lawyer, Estelito Mendoza. (READ: Will trial finally start for Bong Revilla’s plunder case?)
Of all the lawmakers charged in the pork barrel scam, Estrada is the 3rd to proceed to trial after former Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) representative Edgar Valdez.
Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s plunder case is still in the pre-trial stage.
Janet Lim-Napoles, co-accused in the plunder case and alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, also attended Monday’s hearing, heavily guarded by personnel from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Meanwhile, the court partly granted Estrada’s motion to attend the 80th birthday celebration of his father, former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. (READ: Sandiganbayan allows Jinggoy Estrada to get medical tests)
The 5th Division allowed Estrada to go out of his detention facility in Camp Crame from 5 pm to 11 pm on Wednesday, April 19, to attend his father’s party at the Manila Hotel.
Estrada had wanted a longer furlough – ideally from Tuesday, April 18, so he could join preparations for the party, to the wee hours of Thursday, April 20, when the party wraps up.
But the court only granted him 6 hours on Wednesday.
When told of the furlough’s conditions during the hearing on Monday, Estrada requested that it be adjusted to 8 pm of Wednesday until 2 am of Thursday instead. His lawyers explained that the party would start late and the former senator would want to be present for the party’s peak hours.
Associate Justice Lagos, in jest, told them to ask the former president to start his birthday bash early, and then proceeded to dismiss the request.
Visibly disappointed, Estrada, who is usually open to interviews, only said after the hearing, “Nagpapasalamat naman ako sa court.” (I thank the court.)
His lawyers refused to speak to reporters.
The prosecution had tried to block the furlough, calling it “unsubstantiated and self-serving.” – Rappler.com