Jinggoy acquitted of plunder; guilty of direct, indirect bribery in pork barrel scam

(ABS-CBN) MANILA (5th UPDATE) — The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division acquitted Sen. Jinggoy Estrada of plunder in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

The anti-graft court, however, said the senator is guilty of one count of direct bribery and 2 counts of indirect bribery. He was sentenced to 8-9 years for direct bribery and 2-3 years for indirect bribery. 

This has the accessory penalty of temporary absolute disqualification and perpetual special disqualification from the right of suffrage. 

The court said Estrada and Napoles were acquitted of plunder “based on reasonable doubt” after the prosecution failed to prove that the lawmaker amassed at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth. 

However, the prosecution proved that P262 million worth of Special Allotment Releases Orders (SAROs) involved in the case were transferred to several nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles and that the PDAF projects they implemented were ghost or fictitious projects. 

“The actual amount of Php262,034,000.00, which are public funds transferred by implementing agencies to the two NGOs of accused Napoles, constitutes the actual damages suffered by the Government resulting from the unlawful scheme,” the Sandiganbayan said. 

“The disbursements proven in this case to have been given by Napoles to accused Estrada (Php1,000,000.00) and [Estrada’s former aide Pauline] Labayen (Php8,875,000.00)…cannot be deducted from the Php262,034,000.00 because such disbursements are unlawful and illegitimate transactions,” it added. 

The Sandiganbayan ordered Estrada to pay a fine of P3 million. 

It said Napoles should pay the government P262.034 million, plus a 6-percent interest per annum until full payment. 

The court also found Napoles guilty of 5 counts of corruption of public officials and ordered her to pay a fine of P29.625 million. 


Speaking to reporters, Estrada thanked the Sandiganbayan magistrates for the decision but admitted he was puzzled by the guilty verdict for bribery and indirect bribery.

He said that based on the information sheet, there were no charges of bribery or indirect bribery filed against him. 

“I did not receive any money. I would like to thank the magistrates of the Sandiganbayan that after a decade, my case has been resolved. It took almost 10 years but still, I am very, very thankful. This is a vindication of my name,” the senator told reporters. 
“It is only the case of plunder. And I have already been acquitted. I have been exonerated of plunder and I will ask my lawyers to exhaust all legal remedies, all legal options available for me. But I still believe in our justice system,” said lawmaker, son of former President Joseph Estrada. 

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said that Estrada “is duty-bound to continue performing his functions as Senator” until his bribery conviction becomes final and executory. 

The court decision “lifted a heavy burden” for Estrada’s family, his daughter Janella said. 

“This legal battle has tested my family’s resilience but our unwavering strength and determination in proving his innocence have been our guiding light,” she said.

“My dad was not just acquitted, he is vindicated. Hindi man ganap ang pagkatig ng Sandiganbayan justices, lubos pa rin ang pasasalamat ng aming pamilya dahil napawalang sala siya sa kasong plunder,” she added. 

Meanwhile, Napoles’ lawyer Rony Garay said they would also appeal the court decision. 

PDAF or pork barrel funds are allocated to legislators for their pet projects. 

The P10-billion pork barrel scam was exposed in 2013 through investigative news reports that tagged several lawmakers behind it, including Estrada, his fellow Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and then Senator and now Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile. 

According to witnesses, Napoles created fake NGOs where funds were misappropriated and eventually pocketed under the elaborate scheme. 

In 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman filed plunder charges against Estrada, Revilla, Enrile and their co-accused. The three were arrested soon after. 

The Ombudsman said Estrada misused his PDAF from 2004 to 2010 during his term as senator. He was detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for three years. 

Despite plunder being a non-bailable offense, Estrada was allowed to post a bail of P1.33 million in 2017 because according to the Fifth Division, the evidence did not strongly establish the lawmaker as the main plunderer. 

Revilla was acquitted of plunder in 2018 and of graft in 2021, while Enrile’s plunder and graft cases are still being heard. 

Enrile is out on bail. 

Napoles, meanwhile, is already serving her sentence of 138 years to 150 years after being found guilty of graft and malversation. Some of her cases are still ongoing. 

— With reports from Victoria Tulad, Willard Cheng, and Vivienne Gulla ABS-CBN News