By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Senatorial hopeful Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada wants the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division to dismiss his plunder charge based on the ground that the prosecution failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Estrada has filed a motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence on February 22, right in the middle of his plunder trial. Filing a demurrer to evidence is an act contesting that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient. If the court grants it, then the case is dropped.
Estrada was charged with plunder in relation to the illegal use of his P183 million priority development assistance fund (PDAF), which reportedly went to the fictitious non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim Napoles.
In his motion, Estrada said that an evaluation of the prosecution’s evidence is warranted, given the fact that the anti-graft court entitled him to post bail.
On September 16, 2017, the Fifth Division voted 3-2 to allow Estrada to pay P1,330,000 for his provisional liberty – P1 million for plunder, and P330,000 for his 11 graft charges. The Fifth Division agreed with the argument that even if the crime was indeed perpetrated, Estrada was not the “main plunderer” in the controversial PDAF scam.
“It is in this context that Sen. Estrada begs leave to demonstrate further that not only is the evidence against him weak or insufficient to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt, but also that the accusation against him is altogether unfounded,” his motion read.
Estrada added in his motion that he “need not even attempt to prove his innocence and should not be made to wait until the entirety of trial is completed to assert his right to be presumed innocent.”
Estrada, together with former Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile, were charged with plunder and graft in 2014 for the reported kickbacks they received for pooling their PDAF to Napoles’ fake NGOs.
Estrada was accused of pocketing P183 million, while Enrile reportedly received P172 million. Revilla was said to have pocketed the highest amount – P242 million.
As for their graft charges, Revilla has the most number of cases. He was slapped with 16 counts in violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, while Enrile has 15 and Estrada has 11.