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MANILA, Philippines – Senator Jinggoy Estrada was acquitted of plunder, but convicted of bribery in the pork barrel scam.
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan released this verdict to Estrada on Friday, January 19.
Estrada was convicted of one count of direct bribery and two counts of indirect bribery. Those carry a sentence of 8 to 9 years for direct bribery and 2 to 3 years for indirect bribery. He was also ordered to pay a P3-million fine.
Estrada will remain free as he appeals those convictions.
Estrada’s indirect bribery conviction carries an accessory penalty of suspension from public office. It is uncertain if this is immediately executory or if he has a chance to appeal.
Co-accused Janet Lim-Napoles, who owns most of the NGOs in the pork barrel scam, was convicted of a total of 7 counts of corruption of public officials. She was ordered to pay a fine of P262 million.
Like Estrada, Napoles was acquitted of plunder, but she remains in jail for other convictions, including plunder in relation to the Bong Revilla case where the senator was acquitted.
Estrada’s staff Pauline Therese Mary Labayen, and Napoles’ staff John Raymund de Asis remain at-large; their cases are archived, and warrants of arrest have been re-issued.
Estrada had been accused of pocketing P183 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, discretionary funds for lawmakers which were corrupted by using bogus NGOs whose projects turned out to be fake.
He is the second of three senators to be acquitted of plunder in the pork barrel scam, a decade-long trial that has seen lower-ranked staff fall but lawmakers free.
Estrada, who won a senatorial comeback in 2022 with the Marcos-Duterte slate, is not completely off the hook on the graft allegations over the same controversy. Plunder has to involve an amount of P50 million and above, and has to prove earning a kickback. Graft is a lesser crime that can cover several offenses from negligence to partiality in government transactions.
Estrada has been out on bail for almost seven years now after the same court granted his bail petition in 2017. The Sandiganbayan approved the bail then using the novel principle of proving a “main plunderer,” which Estrada was not, at that point in the trial, according to the court.
Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who is now chief presidential legal adviser, is the only one with a pending plunder case. His case notoriously dragged on in the Sandiganbayan because of technical petitions. Revilla, the first to be acquitted, has also been cleared of his graft charges, ending his criminal trials over the pork barrel scam.
Like the others, Estrada has always maintained that he only endorsed the NGOs, and did not earn from the scam.
This is Estrada’s second plunder win. He was charged alongside his father, former president Joseph Estrada, over the accusation that they earned P4 billion from jueteng operations, among others.
Jinggoy Estrada was cleared, but his father President Estrada was convicted and pardoned later on by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Estrada’s plunder charges from the pork barrel scam began in June 2014, when the Office of the Ombudsman, then under Conchita Carpio Morales, charged him, Revilla and Enrile – all big fish at the time. Enrile got bail on humanitarian grounds, and his chief-of-staff Gigi Reyes also recently secured a humanitarian release. – Rappler.com