The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied with finality the petitions of detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada last year seeking to restrain his trial for plunder in the Sandiganbayan over his alleged involvement in the anomalous use of his pork barrel funds.
In an en banc session, the SC resolved to junk Estrada’s motion for reconsideration and affirmed its ruling on Jan. 21 upholding the indictment of the senator by the office of the Ombudsman after findings of probable cause in preliminary investigation.
“The Court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by petition Senator Estrada on the ground that no substantial argument was raised to merit a reconsideration,” SC spokesperson Theodore Te said.
Estrada had asked the SC to nullify the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause for the filing of plunder and graft charges against him over alleged violation of his right to due process and equal protection under the law.
He stressed that the Ombudsman’s resolution “grievously ignored, trampled upon and violated” his Constitutional rights to due process when it first denied his request and then later on filed charges against him using those affidavits which he added were “not disclosed to him.”
Among the affidavits that Estrada requested are the affidavits filed by Ruby Tuason and former Technology Resource Center chief Dennis Cunanan, the counter-affidavits of National Livelihood Development Corporation President Gondelina Amata and Department of Budget and Management Undersecretary for Operations Mario Relampagos, the consolidated reply of the National Bureau of Investigation, as well as the documents submitted by the other respondents in the pork barrel scam case and or additional witnesses for the government.
The detained senator said he needed these affidavits and counter-affidavits so that he can be informed of the charges against him.
However, he told the Court that the Ombudsman denied his request in a resolution issued last March 27, 2014 followed by the announcement a day after that it has issued a resolution charging him before the Sandiganbayan with plunder and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
According to Estrada, the decision of the Ombudsman to deny his request violated the Ombudsman’s own Rules of Procedure, Rules 112 of the Rules of Court, Article III of the Constitution and various decisions issued by the high court.
But the senator still has another pending petition in the SC – which questions the Sandigabayan’s decision to reject his bail petition.
Estrada and his colleagues, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. were among the government officials charged in connection with the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in connivance with lawmakers who channeled their pork barrel allocation to bogus non-government organizations she established.
As this developed, the detained senator challenged government prosecutors to present Tuason before the Sandiganbayan, who the government claimed as a vital witness in his on-going trial plunder and graft trial.
Estrada issued the challenge on learning that government lawyers won’t present Tuason during the lawmaker’s bail hearing saying that her testimony will be saved for the trial proper.
“Bakit di sya mag testify? Magtestify siya. Tingnan natin … because she knows she will crumble in the cross examination …Maninira sila sa media, pupunta sa media para siraan ang ibang personalidad tapos pag dating dito ayaw pala mag testify,” Estrada said in an interview.
Estrada even joked that he wants Tuason to testify because “he misses her.”
Tuason, in her affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation, claimed to have personally delivered kickbacks to Estrada and Gigi Reyes, Enrile’s former chief-of-staff.
Estrada denied receiving money from Tuason claiming that the latter’s affidavit was fabricated to pin him down on the plunder charges.
Tuason was initially included in the plunder and graft charges but was dropped from the charge sheet after admitting her involvement in the scam and agreeing to testify for the government. She is now under the Witness Protection Program.
However, Tuason still faces a separate plunder charge over the alleged misuse of the Malampaya gas fund. She was included in the complaint for allegedly having received P242.775 million for a “still unknown principal.”
Meanwhile, Estrada blamed government prosecutors for the slow pace of his bail hearing, noting how the second batch of pork barrel cases have been filed and yet no decision has been reached in his motion for temporary freedom.