Erap: Jinggoy can defend himself

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Former president Joseph Estrada decries what he calls 'trial by publicity' which was also used against him during his impeachment trial in 2000

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada belittled reports on Friday, February 7, that his former aide Ruby Chan Tuason was turning state witness and was willing to tell all.

Tuason’s lawyer Dennis Manalo said his client’s sworn statement mentioned “everything she knows and that includes names of all that she transacted with.”

Whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy earlier said Tuason served as the conduit for senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce-Enrile, and his former chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.

In their affidavits, whistleblowers said Tuason received money directly from Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, on behalf of the two senators and Reyes herself. The name “Ruby Tuason” appears in the ledger of Benhur Luy, as among those who received millions of pesos in commissions for Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.

“My son can defend himself,” the former president said in an interview on ANC. He decried what appeared to him to be an effort to gang up on him and his family. He said authorities cannot prove anything.

But it’s not only Estrada’s son who reportedly showered Napoles with his millions of pesos in pork barrel allocations. The matriarch of the Estrada clan had her share as well.

While they were both in the Senate, the mother-and-son tandem of former Senator Luisa “Loi” Ejercito Estrada and Jinggoy Estrada separately poured their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) set up by Napoles for her elaborate pork barrel scheme, based on documents earlier obtained by Rappler. (READ: Loi Estrada also channeled pork barrel to Napoles

But Estrada insisted Friday that what is being done is “trial by publicity” against his family as was the case during his impeachment trial in 2000.

Clarissa Ocampo

The former president recalled the time when the prosecution presented as witness in the impeachment trial, banker Clarissa Ocampo, then the vice president of Equitable PCI Bank. Ocampo testified in December 2000 that Estrada used the alias “Jose Velarde” to issue a US$2.8 million check as payment for a mansion for one of his mistresses. This proved that Estrada used an alias to mask funds believed to be illegally obtained. 

Ocampo’s disclosures helped ignite protests that forced Estrada to step down from the presidency in favor of his vice president at the time, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Estrada said, “Wala silang napatunayan na ako’y nagnakaw…hanggang umabot sa Sandiganbayan.” (They were not able to prove that I stole anything until the case reached the Sandiganbayan.)

After his ouster from office, the Ombudsman filed two charges against Estrada – one for plunder and another for perjury. In September 2007, he was found guilty of plunder and sentenced to reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of at least 30 years. He was acquitted of perjury, while his son Jinggoy was acquitted of plunder charges.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had been reported as saying that the affidavit of Tuason contained “very vital information” – enough for the justice department to consider her a “provisional” state witness. Evaluation of Tuason’s testimony by the justice department will be needed before she is accepted under the Witness Protection Program. Acceptance into the program will grant Tuason immunity from prosecution.

Estrada maintained his innocence despite the plunder conviction. He was granted executive clemency by Arroyo in October 2007.

Estrada said government seems to be adopting the same legal strategy against his son Jinggoy where he is being set up for trial by publicity. Jinggoy himself has refused to further comment on the allegations against him, except to say he would rather refute them in court. –

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