The Sandiganbayan did not allow Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada to have a three-hour furlough in order to attend Mass at Pinaglabanan Church in San Juan City (Metro Manila) on his birthday today (February 17).
In a two-page ruling released before noon, the anti-graft court denied his request, saying, “As has been consistently reiterated by this court, accused cannot be accorded the full enjoyment of civil and political rights as a necessary consequence of his detention.”
Estrada, who turns 52 today, is facing a P183-million plunder case in connection with the pork barrel scam and is detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The court further said that what Estrada seeks is not of an emergency nature.
“Allowing the accused to hear Mass outside the confines of his prison would accord him the liberties of a free man with all the privileges appurtenant to his position. Such an aberrant situation not only elevates accused’s status to that of a special class, it also would be a mockery of the purposes of the correction system,” it added.
“At the risk of creating a bad precedent, therefore, accused’s reprieve from jail for his natal day cannot be accommodated,” the Sandiganbayan said.
The ruling was signed by Fifth Division Chairman Roland Jurado and Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.
After Monday morning’s hearing on his petition for bail, Estrada was asked in a chance interview with reporters what his back-up plan was if his request is denied.
He said, “Siyempre dun na lang ako magma-Mass sa Crame, wala naman akong magagawa, kung ayaw nila. Di ko naman pwedeng ipilit [Of course I will just hear Mass at Crame, there is nothing I can do, if they do not allow me. I cannot force my request on them].”
Estrada said that his birthday wish is “Sana matapos na itong kaso sa Sandiganbayan at ung aking pinakmimithi kahilingan na sana makapagpiyansa na ako sa lalong madaling panahon para makasama ko ang aking pamilya, para makabalik na sa trabaho ko sa Senado at para makaikot na rin sa ating bansa [I wish that this case already ends and that I will be allowed to post bail as soon as possible so I can be with my family, return to my work in the Senate and to be able to go around the country also].”