Friday, April 4, 2014

Jinggoy answers Ombudsman: No probable cause, evidence for plunder indictment

MANILA-The camp of Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada filed a 26-page motion for reconsideration yesterday before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Jinggoy said that there is no proof that he received and amassed even a single centavo out of his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocation. “There is nothing on record which established that Sen. Estrada received kickbacks of around ‘50% of the PDAF amount involved.’ Benhur Luy and other witnesses never claimed to have personally handled and/or witnessed the delivery of ‘around 50% of the PDAF amount involved’ to Sen. Estrada,” the document reads.
He stated that Benhur’s ledger does not establish that money was delivered to Sen. Estrada. In fact, he said, the purported ledger will not even support the alleged scheme or modus of giving 50% kickbacks to legislators.
Sen. Estrada also maintained that the evidence on record fails to establish probable cause to indict him for plunder and for violation of the Anti-Graft Law.
“Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation, on bare and unsubstantiated allegations and on hearsay evidence cannot become basis of probable cause,” the lawmaker pointed out,  adding: “None of the witnesses ever claimed to be privy or have personal knowledge about any participation, agreement or involvement which I may have in the so-called PDAF scam.”
Sen. Estrada noted that the testimonies of Benhur Luy, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula and Merlina Sunas are not based on personal knowledge. Their statements were based merely on what they heard from Mrs. Janet Napoles. They stated in their affidavits that they never delivered any amount of money to the Senator personally.
Testimonies of Ruby Tuason and Dennis Cunanan, on the other hand, are unsubstantiated and untrustworthy. Theirs were made in consideration of a promise of immunity from prosecution and were not even corroborated.
Sen. Estrada further lamented that he was not given reasonable opportunity to contest and controvert the affidavits and verified statements of several witnesses, including those of Tuason and Cunanan and several others, thereby tainting the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause.
“We were not provided copies of the affidavits of the additional witnesses, thus, we were not properly apprised of the evidence offered against us, which were eventually made the bases of the finding of probable cause for indictment,” Jinggoy said.
Sen. Estrada further said that the Ombudsman gravely erred in considering the alleged repeated and direct choice of the NGOs headed and controlled by Napoles as evidence of “manifest partiality,” as he emphasized that the said NGOs were all properly accredited by the respective implementing agencies.
“Given that the NGOs endorsed were accredited at the time of endorsement, it cannot be said that there was no rhyme or reason for such endorsement. Given the factual basis for such endorsement, evident bad faith cannot be imputed. Also the certification by the IAs (implementing agencies) that these NGOs were in fact accredited, a fact not disputed by complainants, further disproves evident bad faith on my part,” he said.
The complaint itself admits that “the grant of funds to NGOs for the implementation of a project is not illegal.” Hence, the endorsement of NGOs could not have been construed as anything other than aboveboard.
Sen. Estrada also asserted that the actual selection of the NGOs to implement the PDAF projects was the sole act and responsibility of the IAs. “If at all, the act of endorsement by the legislator concerned is merely recommendatory, with the decision to award or not to the discretion of the implementing agency.”
Lastly, Sen. Estrada maintained that he has no control or custody of his PDAF. “The subject funds were, in fact and in law, released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) directly to the implementing agencies, and from the implementing agencies to the local government units or non-government organizations,” he said.  


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