Sandiganbayan acquits Jinggoy Estrada for P183-M plunder case

(DAILY TRIBUNE) The Sandiganbayan has absolved Senator Jinggoy Estrada of P183-million plunder case in relation to the alleged misuse of his pork barrel funds from 2004 to 2010.

In a 396-page ruling handed down on Friday, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division found the lawmaker not guilty of plunder but guilty of one count of direct bribery and two counts of indirect bribery.

He is sentenced to 8-9 years behind bars for direct bribery and 2-3 years for indirect bribery with special temporary disqualification, temporary absolute disqualification and perpetual special disqualification from the right of suffrage.

Estrada is also ordered to pay a P3 million fine on top of the conviction.

Pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles likewise walked free from plunder but was found guilty of seven counts of Corruption of Public Officials.

She is ordered to pay a P29,625,000 fine and indemnify the government of P262,034,000 with six percent interest per annum.

The case pertains to the allocation of Estrada’s P183 million pork barrel officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund to dubious non-government organizations owned by Napoles to implement projects that turned out to be ghost or non-existent.

In June 2014, the Ombudsman charged Estrada and Napoles and their other co-accused with plunder.

Estrada was accused of receiving millions of kickbacks from Napoles in the PDAF scam.

PDAF allocated to lawmakers is lump-sum and discretionary funds intended to identify key projects that local government units could not fund.

It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in November 2013 since it became a source of corruption.

Napoles, the principal suspect in the scheme, was convicted in 2018 and still serving a sentence over plunder and graft charges all related to the pork barrel scam.

She was acquitted in two separate cases in 2023.

Apart from Estrada, among those high-profile linked to Napoles over plunder cases were Senator Bong Revilla and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

Revilla escaped criminal liability in 2021 while Enrile still has a pending plunder case. 

Estrada, who was detained twice over plunder, managed to be out of jail by posting bail in 2017.

In clearing Estrada of corruption raps, the Sandiganbayan said that while the endorsement letters beard his signature, “such act will not suffice to ascertain his liability as a co-conspirator.”

“Criminal intent on the part of Senator Estrada is absent in this case. Although he may be negligent for not monitoring his PDAF, Labayen’s involvement in its diversion is incontrovertible,” the court ruled.

Estrada was also indicted with plunder alongside his father, then-president Joseph Estrada, over the accusation that they amassed P4 billion from jueteng operations, among others.

He was acquitted in 2007.