Sandiganbayan acquits Jinggoy Estrada of plunder over PDAF scam

(PHILSTAR) MANILA, Philippines — After almost a decade since the case was filed, the Sandiganbayan 5th division on Friday acquitted Sen. Jinggoy Estrada of plunder in relation to the pork barrel scam. 

In a 396-page decision of the anti-graft court, Estrada is not guilty “beyond reasonable doubt,” over the plunder of P10 billion pesos worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund linked to “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim-Napoles. 

Estrada is the second senator to be acquitted in the pork barrel scam, following the acquittal of Sen. Bong Revilla in July 2021. 

He was, however, found guilty of one count of bribery and two counts of indirect bribery after allegedly pocketing P183 million in kickbacks from ghost projects masterminded by Napoles. 

Estrada is sentenced to eight to nine years in prison for direct bribery and is ordered to pay a P3-million fine.

For indirect bribery, on the other hand, Estrada was sentenced to two to three years of imprisonment and was penalized with suspension of holding public office, public censure and perpetual special disqualification of the right to vote. 

Alexis Abastillas, Estrada’s lawyer, said that they would file a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the anti-graft court to address the bribery charges and the temporary disqualification from holding public office faced by Estrada.

“It cannot be bribery, we did not receive any money or consideration,” she was quoted in an interview with the press.

With the filing of an MR, the penalty of disqualification from holding public office and other penalties has yet to take effect until the anti-graft court releases another resolution, which can also be appealed by Estrada to a higher court. 

Napoles was also found not guilty of plunder, but she was convicted of corruption of public officials where she was sentenced to two to four years of imprisonment. 

The anti-graft court also ordered Napoles to pay the national government P262,034,000 with an interest of 6% per annum as a way of civil liability.

Meanwhile, warrants of arrest were issued by the Sandiganbayan for Estrada’s former staff, Pauline Labayen and John Raymund de Asis, a long-time employee of Napoles, who are currently evading authorities.

The PDAF scam is a multi-million peso scandal related to the discretionary funds which involved several lawmakers, which included Estrada, Revilla and former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

In November 2023, the Supreme Court declared PDAF unconstitutional.