Estrada assails jail transfer, cites public stature

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Estrada assails jail transfer, cites public stature
The senator argues against the prosecution's move to have him transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, saying it was the anti-graft court which decided he should be in Camp Crame

MANILA, Philippines – Assailing the prosecution’s move to have him transferred to a regular jail, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada belied the claim that his detention at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame is a form of special treatment. 

In an opposition filed Wednesday, June 30, before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s 5th division, Estrada’s lawyer Jose Flaminiano said his client is not “similarly situated” as other detainees and deserves to be treated differently.

“Senator Estrada is not an ordinary citizen. He is an incumbent Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, having served as such since 2004. He is a son of a former President and a member of the former first family. He was a Mayor of the City of San Juan for many years. He is not an ordinary detainee. He is a high-risk, high-profile detainee,” the opposition read.

Flaminiano argued that his client’s transfer to a jail facility may endanger his life, given his public stature and the nature of the accusations against him.

The prosecution earlier filed a motion to have Estrada transferred to a jail supervised by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), arguing that the PNP Custodial Center does not qualify as a jail as defined by law.

The PNP Custodial Center is supposed to house detainees who are being investigated by police authorities. Estrada, on the other hand, is already awaiting trial.

The opposition senator is indicted for plunder and graft over the alleged diversion of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus projects of dubious non-governmental organizations controlled by suspected scammer Janet Lim-Napoles. The court is currently hearing his plea for bail.

Detention not as punishment

Estrada rebutted the prosecutors’ claim, citing Rule 113, Section 3, of the rules of court which states that an accused can be detained not only at a jail nearest to the court but also at “any other place of custody.”

He said the PNP Custodial Center is a detention facility where other detainees whose trial are also pending are likewise held.

Among the detainees cited in Estrada’s motion were retired police generals and top PNP officials led by former PNP chief Avelino Razon who are charged with plunder over the alleged bogus repair and maintenance of police armored vehicles; several accused in the Atimonan rub-out case led by Police Superintendent Hansel Marantan; suspected drug lord Jackson Dy; and suspected communist rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

He further argued that his detention is not meant as punishment – as he has yet to be convicted – but is simply meant to ensure that he will answer to the charges against him in court. 

“There is no hard and fast rule on custodial arrangements with respect to detention of [suspects], as opposed to convicted prisoners,” Estrada’s opposition read.

As long as this purpose of his detention is satisfied, he said it doesn’t matter where he is detained. 

He said what is important is “the fact of custody” – that is, that the accused’s freedom is restricted – and not “the place of custody.”

Security risks 

In their motion to have Estrada transferred, prosecutors argued that there is no legal basis for the senator’s detention at the PNP Custodial Center.

But the senator said the legal basis is precisely the court’s June 23 resolution ordering his detention at the PNP Custodial Center. He argued that the resolution granted his motion and manifestation filed on the same day requesting that he be detained at the center.

In the said motion, Estrada likewise cited security risks. He said the court then found merit in his argument, having granted the motion. “Nevertheless, detaining Senator Estrada in an ordinary jail poses grave risks, and security concerns and issues,” the motion read.

In his opposition, Estrada also expressed concern that the number of inmates at the BJMP facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City where he is sought to be transferred “vastly outnumber the jail guards.”

“There is real and constant risks of inmates overpowering the jail guards and inmates harming each other and harming the jail guards,” his opposition read. – 

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