MANILA, Philippines – As far as Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada is concerned, things escalated quickly in relation to the plunder charges he and two other senators are now facing before the country’s anti-graft court.
Estrada and fellow opposition senators Juan "JPE" Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr were charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan on Friday, June 6. Plunder is a non-bailable offense.
The decision of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to file the cases before the Sandiganbayan did not come as a surprise to Estrada. He said it was even expected for the Ombudsman to deny their motion for reconsideration.
What baffles him, however, is the timing.
"Baka hinahabol nila na makulong kami bago mag-SONA si Presidente Aquino. Siyempre ibabandera kaming tatlo: 'Napakulong namin ang isang presidente, tatlong senador' sa kanilang anti-corruption drive.’ Ako naman, malinis po ang aking konsensya,” Estrada said in a DZMM radio interview Saturday, June 7.
(Maybe they want us jailed before President Aquino's SONA? Of couse he will highlight the 3 of us: 'We put in prison one president and 3 senators' in their anti-corruption drive. As for me, my conscience is clear.)
President Benigno Aquino III is set to give his 5th SONA or State of the Nation Address in July.
The filing of charges comes almost a year after news on the pork barrel scam first broke in July 2013.
The 3 senators allegedly pocketed kickbacks through an elaborate scheme to divert public funds to fake government projects.
Abad and Alcala are both named in the signed list of government officials alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles implicated in the Philippines' biggest corruption scandal in recent history.
“Hanggang ngayon, lumabas na nga ang kanilang mga pangalan, hanggang ngayon they never lifted a finger to investigate the allies of the administration. Iyon lang ang masyadong masakit sa loob ko. Bakit itong mga kakampi ng administrasyon na ito, bakit hindi man lang inimbestigahan?" Estrada asked.
(Their names already surfaced, but until now, they never lifted a finger to investigate the allies of the administration. That saddens me. Why are these allies of the administration not being investigated?)
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, however, said the filing of plunder charges against the 3 senators is "a major step forward" in finding the truth.
"In the midst of recent misinformation brought about by dishonesty and politicking, the administration remains firmly committed to unearthing the facts,” she added.
Estrada said the fight continues in the Sandiganbayan, and added they are ready to face the charges filed against them.
"Ako naman kusa akong susuko. Sabihin lang nila kung saan nila ako gustong papuntahin. Madali akong kausapin. Kung sabihin ng pulis o ng sheriff ng Sandiganbayan, 'Oy Senador, pumunta ka dito sa Sandigan o sa Camp Crame,' pupunta ako. 'May warrant of arrest ka na.' Walang problema sa akin iyon. I will not evade arrest.”
(I will surrender willingly. Just tell me where; I'm easy to talk to. If the police or sheriff of Sandiganbayan says, "Go to Sandigan or Camp Crame," I'd go. 'You already have a warrant of arrest.' That's not a problem. I will not evade arrest.)
This is the second plunder case filed against Estrada. In 2001, he was co-accused with his father, former president Joseph "Erap” Estrada – also for plunder – but the younger Estrada got acquitted. (READ: How Jinggoy got away in his first plunder charge)
Unlike him, who already spent two years in jail in the past, Revilla probably only went to jail in movies, Estrada quipped.
"Siyempre 90 years na ang tao. Nakakaawa naman kahit paano. Sana huwag na nilang ikulong. Hayaan mo na kaming makulong, huwag na lang si Manong Johnny,” he added. (The man is already 90 years old. That's pitiful. I hope they don't put him in jail anymore. I'd rather we go to jail, but not Manong Johnny. ) – Rappler.com
Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.