By Czarina Nicole Ong
After facing opposition from the prosecution regarding the US travel of former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has finally ruled to allow him to travel from April 30 to May 30, 2018.
Estrada said in his motion that he wishes to attend the US Pinoy for Good Governance (USPGG) general membership meeting, have a medical consultation with an orthopedic surgeon, and enjoy some quality time with his family. In response, the Sandiganbayan granted his motion.
However, the USPGG later issued a statement on its website denying the invitation Estrada mentioned in his travel motion. “USPGG Willie Dechavez did not invite Jinggoy Estrada to speak in Michigan under USPGG nor is any program being planned by USPGG Michigan since Willie Dechavez is on vacation in the Philippines,” the statement read.
In response, the prosecution filed an MR and stated that Estrada “committed material misrepresentations in his motion,” thereby violating the terms and conditions of the court.
The prosecution added that allowing Estrada to travel to the US will make him “beyond the reach of the Honorable Court,” and he might resort to “a travesty of justice.”
For his part, Estrada said the prosecution’s motion should be dismissed since it is rooted on hearsay, adding that it was filed improperly and lacks merit.
The anti-graft court felt compelled to agree with Estrada, since the prosecution failed to secure the reported denial and letter of Rodel E. Rodis and Loida Nicolas Lewis, national president and national chair of USPGG, disavowing the invitation from the said organization.
“The prosecution did not substantiate its claims with any sufficient means of authentication or reliable proof of the alleged forged letter coming from Mr. Dechavez. As such, this Court cannot give any credence to the prosecution’s claims. Hearsay evidence has no probative value whatsoever and, therefore, cannot be the basis for overturning this Court’s earlier ruling,” the court ruled.
“Given the dearth of evidence to back up the prosecution’s motion, this Court is not persuaded to reconsider the resolution granting accused permission to travel abroad,” it added.
Estrada was sent to jail over three years ago after he was charged with plunder in relation to the reportedly illegal use of his P183-million PDAF, which went to the fictitious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim Napoles.
Since his release, he already went to Hong Kong for a family vacation and Singapore to accompany his father for medical treatment. For his travel bond, Estrada earlier posted P2.66 million. The P2 million is double the amount of bail for plunder that he posted, while the P660,000 is double the amount of bail for graft that he posted.