Jinggoy to court: Decide on bail petition
MANILA, Philippines – Hours after the First Division of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan junked on Tuesday, December 2, a petition for bail by Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada quickly filed an “urgent motion” asking the Fifth Division to also decide on his bail petition.
Detained at the PNP Custodial Center since June 23 after his voluntary surrender, Estrada – charged with plunder after he allegedly pocketed P183 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – pointed out that after 5 months of hearings, the Sandiganbayan still has not established whether evidence of guilt is strong in his case.
His lawyers said the prosecution submitted a list of 27 witnesses who would bolster their case against his bail petition but only 5 witnesses have been called. Estrada accused them of deliberately dragging their presentation of witnesses when a bail hearing was supposed to be quick.
Estrada said the prosecution has “continued to refuse to utilize judicial affidavits for the remaining witnesses despite repeated requests from accused and despite suggestions coming from the Honorable Court.”
The prosecution however has also accused Estrada of waging a "futile campaign to delay these proceedings" by filing motions seeking to suppress key evidence against him.
Bu even without having to wait for the prosecution to complete its presentation of witnesses, Estrada said the court can already decide on his petition based on the presumption of innocence and his not being a flight risk.
The defense argued that bail is a basic right and detention is only required if it is shown that an accused has a tendency to flee to avoid prosecution. Given his stature as senator, the defense said, “Flight is not an option for him: too much honor is at stake.”
Given the number of witnesses still to be presented by the defense, Estrada said most of them will only offer corroborative testimonies which would be “superfluous”.
Led by lawyer Jose B. Flaminiano, Estrada’s lawyers pointed out that no witness has come forward to testify they personally delivered money to Estrada himself. Neither has anyone claimed having personal knowledge of Estrada’s alleged participation or involvement in transactions with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
The sums of money supposedly delivered by proxy to the senator, according to defense lawyers, are nowhere near P50 million, the threshold for plunder.
Star witness Benhur Luy, according to the defense, testified that he did not personally deliver money direct to Estrada. Luy also never claimed seeing Estrada receive sums from Napoles or from “any of the alleged agents/middlemen.”
While Luy’s ledger also links the senator to the alleged plundered funds, the defense said the prosecution must show “with positive and competent evidence” that public funds were misappropriated, who pocketed them, and how.
“It is especially important in the crime of plunder to show the actual amassing, accumulation or acquisition of the threshold amount of P50 million. None was proven by the prosecution,” Estrada said. – Rappler.com