The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday upheld the filing of a plunder complaint against Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, thus allowing the Sandiganbayan to proceed with the trial of the case that involves the alleged misuse of the senator’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
Through a 9-5 vote with one inhibition, the SC en banc junked Estrada’s petition questioning the preliminary investigation conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman that eventually led to his indictment at the Sandiganbayan.
Those who voted to junk his petition were Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the ponente of the case; Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno; and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin and Jose Mendoza dissented.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza recused himself since he handled the case when he was the Solicitor General.
The High Court also junked Estrada’s petition questioning the arrest warrant issued against him.
In a petition for certiorari, he asked the SC to invalidate a joint resolution issued by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that led to his indictment.
He also lambasted the testimony of Benhur Luy and Ruby Tuason.
“Even Ruby Tuason, assuming that her testimony is credible and believable, never said that she had delivered to Sen. Estrada such sums of money which is anywhere near P50,000,000,” Estrada argued in his petition.
Malacañang said the decision “strengthens the Ombudsman’s mandate to exact accountability on all public officials.”
“We are held to be accountable. I mean all public officials. It’s not only the administration’s position. It’s the position in the Constitution,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a news conference.
Estrada is also facing graft charges at the anti-graft court for allegedly pocketing portions of his pork barrel fund allocations through a systematic scheme involving bogus non-government organizations. He is currently detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame in Quezon City.
With Catherine S. Valente