Jinggoy Estrada acquitted of plunder, convicted of bribery

(INQUIRER) MANILA, Philippines — Senator Jinggoy Estrada and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles were acquitted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Friday in connection with the infamous pork barrel scam.

However, the anti-graft court division convicted Estrada of one count of direct bribery and two counts of indirect bribery, sentencing him to a jail term of eight years to nine years and four months for direct bribery and two years to three years for each count of indirect bribery.

Estrada, who was present during the case promulgation, is also penalized with a special temporary disqualification from holding public office and perpetual absolute disqualification from exercising the right to suffrage.

“Wherefore, in light of the foregoing premises, the Court finds accused Jose ‘Jinggoy’ P. Ejercito Estrada and Janet Lim Napoles not guilty of plunder based on reasonable doubt,” the dispositive portion of the 369-page ruling states.

“However, the Court finds accused […] Estrada guilty beyond reasonable doubt of one count of direct bribery, defined and penalized under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code […] Furthermore, accused […] Estrada is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of indirect bribery, defined and penalized under Article 211 of the Revised Penal Code,” it also says.

The court likewise asked the senator to pay a P3 million fine, but since Estrada’s bond for his bail and travel was more than that amount, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division would keep the money for now.

Meanwhile, Napoles, who attended the case promulgation online, was convicted of five counts of corruption of a public official and another two counts for a similar violation. She was sentenced to serve a jail time of eight to nine years per count and was ordered to pay a fine of P29.62 million.

Napoles was further asked to indemnify the government with P262 million and ordered to be censured.

“Correspondingly, accused Janet Lim Napoles is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of five counts of corruption of public officials defined and penalized under Article 212, in relation to Article 210, paragraph 2 of the Revised Penal Code. She is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of eight years as prison mayor, minimum, to 10 years and eight months of prison mayor, as maximum, for each count. She is also ordered to pay a fine of P29,625,000,” states the decision.

“Accused Janet Lim Napoles is further ordered to indemnify the government of the Republic of the Philippines in the amount of P262,034,000 with interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the finality of this decision until full payment, by way of civil liability,” it also says,

This plunder case against Estrada, Napoles, and others stemmed from transferring Estrada’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Napoles.

Estrada was charged with plunder for allegedly receiving kickbacks worth P55.79 million from Napoles due to the scheme.

Over the years, there has been a debate about whether Estrada could be considered the “main plunderer” in the case. The Senator, however, asserted that the prosecution could not prove such allegations and failed to substantiate their case against him, as there are supposedly no pieces of evidence pointing to him as the “main plunderer” or the pork barrel scam’s mastermind.

The prosecution accused Estrada of accumulating ill-gotten wealth after he allegedly gained P55.79 million from the shady scheme, aside from being “an active participant in the conspiracy to commit plunder.”

Eventually, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division allowed Estrada and Napoles to file a demurrer to evidence or seek outright dismissal of the cases against them. But these were denied in June 2019, as it was established that he approved the transfer of his PDAF to Napoles’ NGOs.