MANILA, Philippines – We have heard him cry political persecution on live national television, but this time Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada is telling the country’s highest court his plunder and graft cases violate his rights to equal protection of the law.
On June 23, the day he surrendered to government custody, Estrada – through his lawyer – filed his second petition before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to stop his indictment. He said a law administered in a prejudicial manner is an infringement on the Constitution’s equal protection clause.
Estrada cited Yick Wo vs Hopkins, a US ruling which, he said, has long been adopted in the Philippines.
Estrada alleged he was being singled out, along with opposition Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, in the prosecution of individuals over the illegal diversion of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Their pork barrel was said to have been siphoned off to ghost projects of dubious non-governmental organizations in general, a number of which were linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Estrada reiterated that their plunder and graft cases over the PDAF scam before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan are ill-motivated and seek only to discredit them in the 2016 presidential polls.
“The selection of persons, against whom the full might of the State has been brought to bear, was decided in light of the upcoming elections,” his petition read.
“Sen Estrada believes that the criminal charges filed against him – in light of the current political realities and, of course, the coming presidential elections in 2016 – are nothing more than a high-level political ploy to undermine the Opposition of which he is a member, and are part and parcel of a program of political persecution aimed at him and his political allies,” his petition read.
Estrada said he and Revilla had earlier expressed their intentions of running for higher office in 2013. Enrile, he said, has not indicated any intention of doing so himself. The former Senate president enjoyed high trust ratings after the conclusion of the impeachment proceedings against ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Estrada also named cabinet members of President Benigno Aquino III in his petition, saying they have been tagged as part of the scam but have not been charged.
They include: Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Butch Abad, and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. Estrada noted how Aquino has indicated he still trusts all 3.
Estrada also mentioned Mandaluyong Congressman Neptali Gonzales II, currently allied with Aquino, as having been tagged by the same audit report that was used by the Ombudsman as evidence. Yet Gonzales has yet to be charged.
Estrada also sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the proceedings on his cases while the SC decides on whether his indictment is void.
Under the rules of court, proceedings in a lower court must continue without a TRO from a higher court. Judges who fail to proceed with the principal case while a petition for certiorari is lodged on the same case pending with a higher court may be held administratively liable for the delay.
Estrada said there is still no evidence showing he directly benefited from the PDAF scam.
“Even Ruby Tuason, assuming that her testimony is credible and believable, never said that she had delivered to Sen. Estrada such sums of money which is anywhere near P50,000,000,” his petition read.
Estrada on May 7 already asked the SC to essentially reverse his indictment, citing an alleged violation of due process by the Ombudsman. (READ: Jinggoy Estrada asks SC to stop pork barrel probe)
In the same May 7 petition, Estrada primarily asked the High Court to order the Ombudsman to furnish him copies of documents that were relevant to his case. Without an order from the SC, the Ombudsman provided Estrada the documents a day later.
Lawyer Alexis Abastillas noted at the time that not all documents were provided, however.
The SC has yet to commit to act on Estrada’s first petition and ordered state investigators instead to respond to his plea. – Rappler.com
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