MANILA, Philippines – The top respondents in the pork barrel scam are now all back in the Philippines, with Senator Jinggoy Estrada being the latest accused to return to Manila.
Estrada arrived in fighting form from a 3-week trip to the United States on Monday night, April 21, at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1.
The senator looked relaxed despite his indictment for plunder and possible arrest. He even found time to chide his critics, saying he disproved their insinuations that he would become a fugitive.
“Ako, lalabanan ko itong kasong ito,” Estrada told reporters. “Wala naman akong balak na tumakas katulad ng sinasabi ng aming detractors.”
(I will fight this case. I have no plans of escaping like what my detractors have been saying.)
Estrada also took a swipe at his colleagues after Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago proposed that the Senate blue ribbon committee reopen its probe on the pork barrel scam and invite lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes. Reyes made a surprise comeback on Saturday after leaving the country and staying away for 8 months.
“O di ba tapos na ang blue ribbon hearing? Meron na silang committee report na nirerekomenda na i-charge kami for plunder na siya lang ang pumipirma,” Estrada retorted, referring to committee chairman Senator Teofisto “TG” Guingona III. (Isn’t the blue ribbon hearing over? They already have a committee report that only he signed recommending that we be charged for plunder .)
Estrada was referring to the draft committee report Guingona released even without the signature of the members.
Estrada said even he was surprised about Reyes’ sudden return. He reiterated that the former chief of staff of his mentor, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, will not testify against the opposition senators.
This time, he criticized his ex-family friend socialite Ruby Tuason by comparing her to Reyes.
“I don’t think she will become a whistleblower. She will just face the charges against her. Hindi naman katulad ng ibang whistleblower iyan na sinusundo pa sa Amerika para mandiin ng ibang tao. She came here voluntarily. She returned to the country voluntarily to face the charges.”
(She’s not like other whistleblowers who even have to be fetched from America to implicate other people.)
Estrada’s wife, Precy, and their children fetched the senator from the airport. They arrived in Manila in a separate flight early Monday.
On April 1, the Ombudsman announced it found probable cause to file plunder charges against Estrada, Enrile and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr for funneling their pork barrel funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.
Leaving for US again?
Estrada refused to reveal the legal steps he is planning. Asked if he intends to elevate his case to the Supreme Court like Revilla, he kept his silence.
The senator though said he might again have to leave for the US upon the advice of his San Francisco-based doctor who checked his knee injury. He said the doctor advised him to use a cane and a knee brace.
“Actually, pinababalik ako sa July to conduct further tests. ‘Di natin alam kung anong mangyayari. Kung iisyuhan ako ng warrant, paano ako pupunta?” (They asked me to come back in July. We don’t know what will happen then. If they issue an arrest warrant, how will I leave?)
Asked how his trip was, Estrada said, “It was okay. You can’t call it a vacation because my wife had to undergo check-up again while I had to have my knee checked. It turns out there is a hidden fracture that the doctor said might need a surgery.”
Estrada said he made good on his plan to pray for his critics.
“Pinagdasal ko na sila sa Holy Week. Matagal ako sa simbahan eh.” (I already prayed for them during the Holy Week. I was in church for a long time.)
The senator is set to deliver a commencement speech before graduates of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila on Tuesday, April 22. – Rappler.com