Jinggoy Estrada invokes ‘Arroyo Doctrine’ in seeking dismissal of plunder case

By AC Nicholls, CNN Philippines

Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss his pork barrel plunder case over the prosecution’s supposed failure to prove he masterminded the alleged crime.

In his demurrer to evidence received by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on March 29, Estrada cited the main plunderer doctrine that acquitted former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of plunder in 2016.

“In this case, considering that four persons have been accused of amassing, acquiring and/or accumulating ill-gotten wealth, it would be improbable that the crime charged was plunder if none of them was alleged to be the main plunderer,” Estrada’s 115-page motion read.

Estrada was charged with plunder and graft in 2014 for allegedly pocketing some P183 million by diverting his pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. The Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional in November 2013.

The senatorial candidate said the alleged pork barrel scam was carried out without his participation.

Napoles’ former employees Benhur Luy and Marina Sula, who turned state witnesses, testified that Estrada was part of the fraud. However, Estrada said the state witnesses themselves were at the center of the conspiracy.

He said the prosecution failed to establish he actually received money. Part of the evidence offered by prosecutors is a ledger supposedly summarizing rebates received by lawmakers involved in the alleged scam. Luy testified to the entries detailing those received by Estrada, but the former senator said Luy’s testimony should be treated with suspicion or disregarded altogether.

“Mr. Luy admitted in open court that he has no personal knowledge whether any of these supposed ‘rebates’ actually were delivered to or received by Senator Estrada,” Estrada’s motion read.

Ruby Tuason as ‘bagman’

Ruby Tuason, another state witness, testified she was the middleman who delivered Estrada’s kickbacks in a duffel bag on several occasions to his Senate office.

Estrada said Tuason’s testimony should not be given weight unless corroborated since she herself testified that she was a co-conspirator. He added the security camera footage does not show Tuason in the Senate premises on the days she allegedly delivered the bag containing money.

“That Ms. Tuason’s account of delivery at the Senate is pure fiction is further proved by the fact that not once is Ms. Tuason shown to be in possession of any such duffel bag during the times she visited the Senate,” Estrada said.

Endorsement letters and AMLC report

Estrada also questioned the weight of letters from his office supposedly endorsing Napoles NGOs for projects. He said the letters themselves do not show any violation of law.

As for a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), Estrada said the council did not find any real basis to support allegation against him.

The AMLC report supported the prosecution’s allegations against Estrada. It said dummy accounts under Francis Yenko and Juan Ng were used for the receipt of kickbacks.

But Estrada said AMLC only looked into his accounts after having presumed wrongdoing or after media reports on the alleged pork scam.

“AMLC merely relied on the entries in Mr. Luy’s summary of rebates, did not verify the same, and could not determine the underlying transaction for the financial activities tagged,” Estrada said.

Estrada was among three senators charged in 2014 over the alleged pork barrel scam. Both Estrada and former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile are out on bail, while former senator Bong Revilla has been acquitted. All three are running for senator in the May 13 polls.

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