MANILA, Philippines – What’s in a name? The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Monday, June 30, was witness to a spectacle involving government prosecutors and Senator Jinggoy Estrada over his name.
In the plunder information sheet that the Ombudsman filed against the senator, he was identified as Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
During Monday’s hearing, the prosecution asked that Estrada’s supposed real name, Jose “Jinggoy” Pimentel Ejercito Estrada, also be considered by the court.
But Estrada argued that a Pasig court had already approved his application for a change of name and that he has been using “Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada” as his official name for sometime now. A check with Estrada’s certificate of candidacy for the 2010 polls, Statement of Contributions and Expenditures submitted to the Commission on Elections, as well as his different Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth all show his name as Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada.
This prompted Associate Justice Roland Jurado, chair of the fifth division hearing Estrada’s case, to say: “It’s the first time in court that an accused is insisting on his real name.”
Jurado set aside the issue, saying it can be discussed in the court’s preliminary conference.
Estrada was arraigned on Monday for the graft and plunder charges against him. He refused to enter a plea, citing a petition he filed before the Supreme Court asking it to stop his indictment.
Not in the complaint
Estrada’s co-accused, Technology Resource Center budget officer Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, also invoked her name – or the absence of it in a list – in asking the court to defer her arraignment.
Aljohn Gandamato, counsel of Espiritu, informed the court that there was “lack of preliminary investigation” in Espiritu’s case as she was not among those named in the graft complaint involving Estrada. He sought for a deferment of Espiritu’s arraignment. (READ: PDAF cases included names not okayed for indictment)
Government prosecutors objected to this, pointing out that an arrest warrant has already been issued by the court against Espiritu. But 5th division associate justice Alexander Gesmundo said that the issuance of the arrest warrant “does not constitute a waiver” on the respondent’s part to seek due process.
The court agreed to defer her arraignment.
In an interview, Gandamato said that while Espiritu was named as one of the defendants in the separate charges against Revilla and Enrile, she was initially not included in the complaint against Estrada. As such, “she was not able to file her counter-affidavit,” he said. Her name only surfaced when the Ombudsman issued its joint order denying the motions for reconsideration filed by the other accused. “There was denial of due process,” Gandamato explained.
The prosecution has faced several setbacks in recent days as they attempted to amend the information they had filed against Estrada, as well as Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Juan Ponce Enrile.
The Sandiganbayan 3rd division, which is handling the plunder case against Enrile, cancelled Tuesday’s scheduled hearing on the prosecution’s motion to amend its information against the senator after the prosecution itself withdrew its request.
Previously, the prosecution was also frustrated in its efforts to amend the information against Revilla and Estrada.
The belated attempt to amend the information for the 3 senators was seen as an implied admission that they filed a flawed, if not weak, case against them (READ: Ombudsman blunders may cost plunder charges)
The Office of the Special Prosecutor, which is under the Ombudsman, downplayed the setback, saying the original information is sufficient to convict the respondents. – Rappler.com
Gavel and old papers image from shutterstock
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