After 12 years, Sandiganbayan runs after 4 co-accused in Estrada case

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan required law enforcers to explain why 4 people implicated in former president Joseph Estrada's plunder case have not been arrested 12 years after arrest orders were issued against them. 

The anti-graft court said the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should explain the non-arrest of 4 people implicated in the P4.1-billion plunder case of Estrada.

The Sandiganbayan's 4th division said there were alias arrest orders issued against Yolanda Ricaforte, Alma Alfaro, Eleuterio Tan, and Delia Rajas on September 12, 2007 – the same day the court convicted Estrada of plunder.

But 12 years later, 4th division Justices Alex Quiroz, Reynaldo Cruz, and Bayani Hacinto said that the court has yet to receive a report from authorities on actions taken on the arrest warrants.

"To date, there remains no returns on the Alias Order of Arrest issued on September 12, 2007 against accused Ricaforte, Alfaro, Tan and Rajas," the Sandiganbayan said.

To this day, none of the 4 people has been arrested.

Ricaforte is the wife of former tourism undersecretary Orestes Ricaforte. Prosecutors and witnesses pointed to her as the supposed bookkeeper of jueteng payola.

While she remains at large, she filed a motion in October 2011 with the Office of the Ombudsman seeking to dismiss the plunder charges against her. But former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied it, citing the lack of new arguments and evidence.

The 3 others – Alfaro, Tan, and Rajas – were alleged dummies of Estrada and were accused of helping move millions of pesos from tobacco excise tax meant for farmers in Ilocos Sur.

Aside from receiving illegal gambling payoffs, Estrada was also accused of taking commissions in the sale of shares to government pension funds.

Estrada was sentenced to life imprisonment but was later granted pardon by then president Gloria Arroyo.

His two co-accused – his son, former senator Jinggoy Estrada, and lawyer Edward Serapio – were both acquitted for lack of evidence. –