The Sandiganbayan on Friday decided to conduct a full trial of the plunder case against former Senator Jinggoy Estrada and the alleged pork-barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
In denying separate motions from Estrada and Napoles asking that their cases be dismissed for lack of evidence, the anti-graft court said the evidence from the Ombudsman was strong enough to warrant the holding of a full trial involving the alleged misuse of P183 million of Estrada’s Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel.
“This court is convinced that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence, both testimonial, and documentary, which established each element of the crime of plunder against the accused. This, if unrebutted by contrary evidence, is sufficient to support a conviction,” the court said.
Estrada, who is out on bail, ran for senator but lost in the May 13 elections.
In his motion, Estrada said the Ombudsman failed to prove that he allegedly misappropriated his P183 million Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, to the fake non-government organizations of Napoles.
He said the prosecution had no evidence that he was the mastermind behind the scheme, nor was there proof he acted in conspiracy with Napoles and his former deputy chief of staff Pauline Labayen.
Ombudsman prosecutors, however, claimed that the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council alone showed Estrada’s receipt of P70.7 million worth of kickbacks. The prosecutors pointed out that the Sandiganbayan itself found Estrada received P55.8 million.
Estrada, the prosecutors said, “cannot claim there was no main plunderer in the scheme,” saying “his endorsement of the Napoles-led foundations shows he was part of the misappropriation of public funds.
Napoles, on the other hand, said the prosecution has no proof the crime of plunder even exists. She has said “the lack of a main plunderer deprived her the chance to proper defend herself.”