FILE PHOTO: Former senator Jinggoy Estrada
QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Former senator Jinggoy Estrada couldn’t be happier for his friend former senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr.
On Friday (December 7), the Sandiganbayan acquitted Revilla of plunder charges in line with the multi-billion Priority Development Assessment Fund (PDAF) or ‘pork barrel’ scam in which Estrada was a co-accused.
Estrada said he was speechless as he personally heard the decision during the promulgation of the case.
Now that his good friend is a free man, he only has one advise for Revilla.
“Walang nararapat na salita para i-express iyong nararamdaman ko ngayon. Spend more time with his family dahil apat na taon din siya nakulong and we’ll hit the campaign trail soon,” he said.
Estrada is on temporary liberty after posting P1.33-M bail in September 2017. The anti-graft court said that though they found irregularities in the disbursement of Estrada’s PDAF, there is no strong evidence to show that he is a main plunderer.
Along with Estrada, another co-accused former senator Juan Ponce Enrile was granted bail due to old age. Enrile was then 92-years-old.
Despite Revilla’s victory in the case, legal expert and dean of San Beda College of Law, Atty. Ranhilio Aquino, explained that though the three senators – Revilla, Estrada, and Enrile – were all accused in the same plunder case, the anti-graft court’s decision may still vary.
“Cases are decided on their own merits so I’m sure that the courts will decide on the merits of each case. The issue of one does not necessarily affect the other cases,” Aquino clarified.
Also in some cases, Aquino noted, that despite the acquittal, the court still demands the suspect to pay for his civil liability such in the case of Revilla wherein the court requires them to return a total of P124-M to the national treasury.
“Criminally you need proof beyond reasonable doubt. Civilly, you only need preponderance of evidence so mas mababa ang standard of proof for civil cases,” he explained further.
Still, Estrada said he has high hopes that his case will yield the same results as that of Revilla.
For now, he leaves it to the court to decide.– Marje Pelayo (with reports from Mai Bermudez)