Jinggoy Estrada eyes PH-wide 'thank you tour'

MANILA, Philippines – Fresh out of detention, former senator and plunder defendant Jinggoy Estrada said on Saturday, September 16, that he plans to go on a nationwide "thank you tour" where he would poll people on what they need from their government.

Estrada announced the plan in response to questions in a media interview at the Sandiganbayan on Saturday, after he was officially released from detention for plunder and graft charges over the pork barrel scam. That morning, his lawyers paid a P1.3 million bail to the court. (READ: SC acquittal of Arroyo helps Jinggoy Estrada get bail)

"Puwede tayong umikot sa Pilipinas para magpasalamat at tanungin sila ano ang kanilang kailangan, at iyon ay maitatawid natin sa mga kinauukulan (We can go around the Philippines to give thanks and ask our countrymen what they need and we can communicate that to authorities)," Estrada said.

Sounds like an early campaign? No, said the former senator, who also brushed aside questions about his political plans for the 2019 elections with, "We will cross the bridge when we get there."

"Maraming paraan para tumulong sa mga kababayan (There are many ways to help Filipinos)," said the former senator, who is still eligible to run for public office.

'Wala akong ninakaw'

Fresh out of detention, Estrada insisted on his innocence.

"I deny all the allegations against me. Wala po akong ninakaw (I did not steal anything)," he said.

Estrada again accused Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales of selective justice, and repeated his earlier accusations that a Liberal Party ally once funnelled his pork barrel into a non-governmental organization (NGO) where the lawmaker was a board director.

He also rehashed his accusation that former Mandaluyong eepresentative Neptali "Boyet" Gonzales Jr also misused his pork barrel.

"Bumili lang ng hamburger eh worth 6 million, eh bakit yun ay hindi nila binibigyan ng kaukulang pansin? Ba't kami na nagendorso lang ng allegedly ghost projects, bakit kami ang pinili?" Estrada said, citing the earlier Commission on Audit (COA) special report that exposed irregularities in the allocation of lawmakers' pork barrel.

(They just bought hamburger, and it cost P6 million, why are they not paying attention to that? Why are they fixated on us when we only endorsed allegedly ghost projects?)

Estrada's case is considered among the strongest among the pork barrel scam cases because there are check deposits to a bank account under the name Juan Ng. Kickbacks were allegedly deposited to this Juan Ng account, said the prosecutors.

With the aide of a report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), prosecutors concluded that Juan Ng and Estrada are one and the same. AMLC investigators said Estrada and Juan Ng's signatures were too similar. (READ: AMLC: Jinggoy has hidden multi-million dollar account)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) under the leadership of now detained Senator Leila de Lima had investigated the pork barrel scam exposé under the previous administration.

When asked, Estrada declined to comment on what he thought about the fact that he was granted bail while De Lima remained detained for alleged drug charges.

Estrada also promised to "religiously attend" the hearings on his plunder case. He begins trial on Monday, September 18, barring any more postponements.

Estrada's lawyer, Alexis Abastillas-Suarez, said the bail grant was an indication of a weak case against her client.

‪"Ever since naman sinasabi namin (we have been saying that) the evidence against him is not strong....Because the evidence of the prosecution in the bail hearing will be adopted by the court in the trial of the case," Suarez said.‬ – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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