‘Jinggoy’ fights suspension, says prosecution forum-shopping

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Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada is ac-cusing government lawyers of acting in “bad faith” in asking for his suspension over the P183-million plunder case leveled against him by the Office of the Ombudsman.

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“Thus, the prosecution is laying the basis to seek the suspension of Sen. Estrada for each case successively, which would allow the suspension of Sen. Estrada for a total of 1,080 days or almost three (3) years!” his lawyers said on Monday.

The senator is also charged with 11 counts of graft in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Estrada is asking the court to reconsider and set aside its order to suspend him pending litigation of his plunder case.

He and two other senators—Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.—have been ordered suspended by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

They are also accused of amassing millions in kickbacks by pouring their pork barrel funds into bogus projects.

In a reply to prosecutors’ opposition to their client’s motion for reconsideration, Estrada’s lawyers asked the Sandiganbayan to preclude prosecutors from asking for his suspension in the graft cases.

But earlier, in their opposition, the prosecutors said they have not acted in bad faith in moving for Estrada’s suspension under the Plunder Law.

Republic Act 7080, which defines and punishes plunder, provides for the suspension of a public officer facing a valid charge under it.

“Accused-movant [Estrada] imputes bad faith on the part of the prosecution for what he believes to be a piecemeal request for his suspension. According to him, the possibility exists that the prosecution will file successive motions to suspend in the other cases . . . to the point of depriving his constituents of his representation and service for almost three years,” the prosecutors said.

“The imputation is uncalled for and accused-movant [Estrada]’s paranoia is unwarranted,” they added.

In the same reply, Estrada insisted that that he cannot be ordered suspended by the Sandiganbayan from office pending his petitions at the Supreme Court (SC) that challenge the charges.

“The prosecution is incorrect in its argument that the validity of the informations in these consolidated cases are no longer in issue,” the defense said.

Estrada has filed petitions for certiorari before the SC against the Office of the Ombudsman, docketed as G.R. Nos. 212140-41 (dated May 5, 2014) and G.R. Nos. 212761-62 (dated June 20, 2014) questioning the preliminary investigation that resulted in the filing of the charges against him.

“Thus, for as long as these petitions are pending, the suspension of Sen. Estrada cannot be ordered,” the defense said.

Estrada said it was the prosecution, not he, who was forum-shopping.

He first raised the issue in his motion for reconsideration, accusing prosecutors of forum- shopping in asking for his suspension pending litigation of his cases.

Despite his petitions at the SC, Estrada said the prosecutors sought a determination of the same issue (validity of the charge) by way of the request for his suspension pursuant to the Plunder Law, which requires that the charges be valid in suspending a public official.

In their opposition to his motion for reconsideration, the prosecutors said their plea for his suspension was a necessary consequence of the filing of the charges against him.

They added that it was Estrada who was forum-shopping, noting his two petitions for certiorari that have identical or almost identical parties, and which both seek to nullify the proceedings.

But in their reply to the opposition, Estrada’s lawyers said this suggestion was “laughable,” asserting that his petitions raised the different rights of Estrada that the Ombudsman’s office allegedly violated and prayed for distinct remedies.

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