Jinggoy: PNoy impeachment will divide the country
MANILA, Philippines – With an orange ribbon he claims to be a symbol of unity pinned to his crisp white polo barong, Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada would rather let the legislative branch focus on the enactment of laws than the impeachment of President Benigno Aquino III.
"Let's not divide the country. We have a lot of problems to solve....Wala na tayong maipapasang batas sa Senado (We would have no laws passed in the Senate) if we will concentrate again on another impeachment case," he said in an ambush interview before his bail hearing before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan Tuesday morning, July 22.
"Pag mag-prosper ang impeachment complaint sa (If the impeachment complaint prospers in the) House, it will again divide the country," he added.
Estrada, however, was confident the pending impeachment complaint against Aquino over his alleged "culpable violation of the constitution" for implementing the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) won't prosper.
"Again, this is a numbers game. I don't think the House will muster enough signatures to impeach the President, considering the fact that majority of the members of the House are allies of the President," he said.
Estrada sang a different tune after a month of detention for his plunder and graft cases, where he is accused of knowingly and financially gaining from diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost government projects.
The opposition senator had previously cried political persecution, accusing the Aquino administration of selective prosecution in the PDAF scam.
He said the orange ribbon he pinned to his barong was a combination of the colors yellow representing Aquino and red representing his critics.
Estrada appeared to be in a good mood during the Tuesday bail hearing, even joking to his lawyers about his father sleeping while in court.
His father, former president and now Manila mayor Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada, and his wife Ma Presentacion Vitug were present during the hearing.
The older Estrada has consistently been appearing in the weekly bail hearing of his son. He himself was convicted of plunder 7 years ago but was pardoned by the president who took his position upon his ouster, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The patriarch Estrada managed to get a few minutes of sleep while the hearing went on, as at least 20 documents were described to the court one by one by the Assistant Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano.
Each of the documents were then attested to by lawyer Vic Tagura Escalante Jr, graft and prosecution officer I at the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office (FIO), as having been submitted to the Ombudsman FIO.
Escalante was the first witness called to the stand in the bail hearing of Senator Estrada. (READ: Voluminous evidence vs Estrada delays bail hearing)
Lawyer Stephen David, counsel for alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, previously blocked the testimony of Escalante. He said a bail hearing is simply a summary hearing, and so only the key witnesses or those who have knowledge of the alleged act should be presented.
David was pertaining to witnesses Benhur Luy, who first revealed the scam to authorities, and Ruby Tuason, who testified that she personally hand-delivered the kickback of Estrada from the scam.
But prosecutor Soriano said all the witnesses they will be presenting in the bail hearing are necessary to prove Estrada's strong evidence of guilt, the standard by which justices will decide whether the accused should be granted bail.
Tales from detention
Estrada is still up to date with the news. His lawyer Alexis Abastillas-Suarez said newspapers and a television are available at the common area in the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center, where Estrada is detained.
Estrada is able to daily interact with his co-senator and PDAF scam accused Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. The two are segregated from other detainees at the custodial center, so they share a common area.
"Oo, araw-araw (Yes, every day)," answered Estrada, when asked if he sees his co-indicted Senator Revilla. He said they play chess to pass the time while in detention.
There was also loss of power at the PNP Custodial Center until the wee hours of the morning during Typhoon Glenda, Estrada said.
Asked about his condition, Estrada said the guards can be a little strict sometimes. His children are usually unable to visit given the custodial center's 1-5 pm visiting hours, a timeframe when his children are still in school. – Rappler.com