SC to ‘pork’ scam probers: Comment on Jinggoy’s plea

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SC to ‘pork’ scam probers: Comment on Jinggoy’s plea
Aside from the Ombudsman field investigation office and the NBI, lawyer Levito Baligod is also ordered to comment on Estrada's petition
DUE COURSE. The Supreme Court gave due course to the petition of Senator Jinngoy Estrada seeking for a reversal of his indictment. Photo courtesy of Senator Jinggoy Estrada's office
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the Ombudsman and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to comment on Senator Jinggoy Estrada’s plea seeking to void his indictment for plunder.
In a two-page order dated Wednesday, May 21, the SC en banc required the two investigating offices to issue a reply-comment to Estrada’s petition seeking to stop the preliminary investigation (PI) against him in relation to the pork barrel scam.
Also covered in the SC order were the Ombudsman field investigation office (FIO) and lawyer Levito Baligod. 
The Ombudsman FIO conducted the PI that found probable cause to charge Estrada, while the NBI was tasked to build up the evidence contained in the plunder complaint filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) before the Ombudsman. Baligod was the counsel of principal pork barrel scam state witness Benhur Luy at the time the complaint was filed. Luy relieved Baligod as his lawyer on March 3.
The SC order was given by the authority of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and signed by Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal. 
(Read the full SC order below)
Without necessarily committing to act on Estrada’s request, the SC said his petition “appears to be sufficient in form and substance.”
“…considering the allegations contained, the issues raised and the arguments adduced in the petition, it is necessary and proper, without giving due course to the the petition, to require respondents to comment on the petition and prayer for TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction,” the order read.
Estrada on May 7 filed his 29-page petition before the High Court essentially seeking a reversal of his indictment, saying he was denied due process.
The Ombudsman, in an order dated March 27, refused to provide Estrada’s camp with documents used against the senator, who then argued that the Ombudsman’s refusal violated his rights.
Void indictment
A day after he filed his petition before the SC, the Ombudsman granted Estrada’s request for the documents, including the affidavits of select witnesses.
But for Estrada, the damage had been done.
Syempre (of course), you cannot cure the mistake that was made by the Ombudsman when they submitted the affidavits of our co-respondents. They cannot cure it, just because I went to the Supreme Court, (and) the next day ibinigay kaagad ang aking nire-request (they immediately granted my request),” he said.
Lawyer Alexis Abastillas-Suarez, counsel for Estrada, alleged the documents provided to them by the Ombudsman were still “incomplete.”
Abastillas also said the Ombudsman’s grant of their request does not necessarily render their petition “moot and academic.”
“If it (indictment) was based on a violation of due process, won’t you have to redo (the probe) for the filing of information is also void?” she asked, questioning the Ombudsman’s go-signal to charge Estrada with plunder before the Sandiganbayan.
Corruption scandal
It was on March 28 when the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict senators Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ramon Revilla Jr for plunder over the pork barrel scam. Estrada, however, filed on April 7 a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the Ombudsman, asking for a review of the findings.
Estrada has been implicated by whistleblower and state witness Ruby Tuason and provisional state witness Dennis Cunanan for allegedly having received kickbacks in exchange for siphoning part of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
The diversion of lawmakers’ PDAF to bogus projects of Napoles NGOs was revealed by Luy, who was rescued by NBI agents in March 2013 from supposed illegal detention by Napoles.
Tuason said she hand-delivered Estrada’s kickbacks to his Senate office, while Cunanan said Estrada was among the senators who called and wrote to his Technology Resource Center office to attest to the legitimacy of the Napoles NGOs they endorsed. –

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