However, Estrada was convicted of one count of bribery and two counts of indirect bribery for which he was sentenced to a prison term ranging from eight to nine years for the former and two to three years for the latter.
Under the rules, Estrada can still file a motion for reconsideration and if denied by the Sandiganbayan he can challenge his convictions before the Supreme Court (SC).
He still has 11 graft cases pending trial before the Sandiganbayan.
His co-accused, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles was also acquitted of plunder but convicted of seven counts of corruption of public officials.
The 396-page decision was promulgated by the Sandiganbayan’s division on Friday, Jan. 19. It was signed by Fifth Division Chairperson and Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos and Associate Justices Maria Theresa V. Mendoza Arcega and Maryann e. Corpus-Mañalac.
The dispositive portion of the decision:
“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.
“However, the Court finds accused Jose ‘Jinggoy’ P. Ejercito Estrada GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of one (1) count of Direct Bribery, defined and penalized under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code. Appreciating the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of eight (8) years of prision mayor, as minimum, to nine (9) years and four (4) months of prision mayor, as maximum, with special temporary disqualification, and the accessory penalties of temporary absolute disqualification and that of perpetual special disqualification from the right of suffrage. He is also ordered to pay a fine of P3,000,000.
“Furthermore, accused Jose ‘Jinggoy’ P. Ejercito Estrada is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts of Indirect Bribery, defined and penalized under Article 211 of the Revised Penal Code. Appreciating the mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, he is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years and four (4) months of prision correctional, as minimum, to three (3) years, six (6) months and twenty (20) days of prision correctional, as maximum, for each count. He is also sentenced to suffer the penalties of suspension and public censure, with the accessory penalties of suspension from public office, from the right to follow a profession or calling, and that of perpetual disqualification from the right to suffrage.
“Correspondingly, accused Janet Lim Napoles is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of five (5) 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 (8) years of prision mayor, as minimum, for each count. She is also ordered to pay a fine of P29,625,000.
“The Court likewise finds accused Janet Lim Napoles guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two (2) counts Corruption of Public Officials defined and penalized under Article 212, in relation to Article 211 of the Revised Penal Code. She is hereby sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of two (2) years and four (4) months of prision correccional, as minimum, to four (4) years, nine (9) months and ten (10) days of prision correcional, as maximum, for each count. She is also sentenced to suffer the penalty of public censure.
“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 percent per annum reckoned from the finality of this decision until full payment, by way of civil liability.
“Considering that accused John Raymund De Asis and Pauline Therese Mary C. Labayen remain at-large, let an alias warrant of arrest be issued against them and this case is ordered archived insofar as they are concerned, subject to reinstatement of the same once the Court acquires jurisdiction over their persons. So ordered.”
During an interview after the promulgation of the decision, Estrada’s lawyer Alexis Abastillas Suarez said plunder acquittal is a “big victory” for them because it only proves that “he is not guilty of the crimes charged.”
But Suarez said they are perplexed with the conviction of direct and indirect bribery. He said that they are going to read the court’s decision first before taking any legal remedies. They might file a motion for reconsideration or file an appeal before the SC, he added.
Estrada was initially charged with a violation of Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080 on plunder and 11 counts of violations of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, together with Napoles Labayen, and De Asis.
They reportedly pocketed P183,793,750 from Estrada’s PDAF by endorsing Napoles’ fake non-government organizations (NGOs) back in 2004 to 2012.
While plunder is a non-bailable offense, Estrada has been out on bail since September 2017. He posted bail amounting to P1,330,000 — P1 million for plunder, and P330,000 for his 11 graft charges.