Jinggoy: Ombudsman biased, violates rights
MANILA, Philippines – “I am very sure that what the Ombudsman really wants is not speedy trial but a speedy convicting court.”
Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada trained his guns on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, attacking the former Supreme Court justice for alleged bias and denial of due process.
For the third time, the senator charged with plunder delivered a privilege speech on the country’s biggest corruption scandal in recent history, repeating his refrain of “selective justice” against the Aquino administration, the Commission on Audit (COA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the media.
This time, though, Estrada included the Ombudsman, which he said dashed his hopes of getting a fair trial.
“My constitutional right to due process has been blatantly trampled upon by the Ombudsman no less! While the Ombudsman undoubtedly has the plenary and unqualified authority to investigate and prosecute, this power is not unbridled,” Estrada said in an hour-long speech on Wednesday, June 11.
On the last day before Congress goes on a month-long break, Estrada took to the podium to deliver a speech peppered with punch lines and arguments he previously used, and soundbites of his alleged critics.
Estrada played clips of Morales saying her office has enough evidence against him, and advising the respondents to get good lawyers “to have a safe and sound sleep.”
“How can this strongly worded advice inspire belief that the Ombudsman could be impartial in the conduct of its investigation? Your guess is as good as mine,” the senator said.
Yet Estrada was most critical of Morales’ decision to deny his request for copies of counter-affidavits of the other respondents in the case.
“I would have accepted this had the Ombudsman not used these very same documents I requested, and which they refused to give, against me,” Estrada said.
The senator said he elevated the case to the Supreme Court, prompting Morales to give him copies of the counter-affidavits the next day.
“But she cannot say that was already a solution to the mistake because the Ombudsman already released a resolution using the evidence against me.”
He added that it is only from the high court and the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan that he expects to get fair treatment.
The senator twice accused of plunder did not go into detail about the charges against him, saying he will respond in court.
“Hindi ako magnanakaw. Wala po akong ninakaw na P50 million o ni isang kusing sa kaban ng bayan.” (I am not a thief. I did not steal P50 million or even a centavo from public coffers.)
Estrada’s speech comes nearly a week after the Ombudsman charged him, and senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Juan Ponce Enrile with plunder before the Sandiganbayan.
The 3 opposition senators are accused of conspiring with alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to funnel discretionary funds for the poor to her bogus non-governmental organizations in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.
Revilla also delivered a privilege speech on Monday that turned out to be a farewell message, with a music video to cap off the dramatic presentation.
‘Plunder case contrived’
Estrada branded the filing of plunder charges against him as contrived. He said records show that the supposed kickbacks he got did not reach P50 million, the threshold for plunder. He cited the testimonies of self-confessed bagman Ruby Tuason, and the files of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.
“Based on the ledger of Luy which allegedly details the commissions Mrs Tuason received, if you total the amount it will not reach P50 million. The other records listed in the ledger are hearsay because Benhur Luy has no personal knowledge of this. He listed these down upon the orders of Mrs Napoles.”
A former family friend of Estrada, Tuason testified before the Senate that she personally gave bags of cash to Estrada representing the kickbacks from Napoles.
Estrada again blasted Tuason in his speech, along with his usual targets in the scam: Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, and COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan.
He reiterated that the 3 focused on the opposition senators when there are other lawmakers named in the COA report on the scam and in Luy's files.
“Bakit kami lamang ang naalala ni Chairman Pulido Tan? Bakit ang mahilig sa hamburger na si [Majority Leader] Boyet Gonzales ay hindi man lang niya naaalala kahit pa ng naki-pag meeting si Chairman Pulido Tan kay [Majority Leader] Gonzales bago pa niya nilabas ang audit report?”
(How come Chairman Pulido Tan only remembered us? How come she did not remember House Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales who is fond of hamburgers even when she met with him before releasing the audit report)
In his first privilege speech in September 2013, Estrada mentioned Gonzales, the congressman of Mandaluyong City. Citing the COA report, he said Gonzales had a P6 million worth of transactions in fastfood chain Jollibee that the COA had disallowed.
Estrada also repeated his criticism of Guingona and De Lima’s pronouncements that allegedly prejudged the case. He played the soundbite of Guingona saying in a Senate hearing that Tuason’s testimony was a “3-point, buzzer-beater, winning shot.”
He then criticized the actions of De Lima and Morales when Tuason visited the Ombudsman to offer to testify. Tuason's lawyer is Dennis Manalo, an ex-counsel of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“The Ombudsman said, ‘Now, we are on the same side,’ after she pointed out Attorney Manalo’s being one of the defense lawyer in the impeachment trial. They are immediately allies? Shouldn’t the Ombudsman be impartial? This seemingly innocent statement is very much contrary to the Ombudsman’s avowed observance of impartiality and fair play.”
‘No one in our clan violates the law’
Estrada spent the last part of his speech to honor his family, famous in the worlds of both politics and show business.
Estrada is the son of former President now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, convicted but pardoned for plunder for receiving payoffs from the illegal numbers game jueteng during his term. The senator was a co-accused in the case but was acquitted.
“Wala po sa aming angkan ang tahasang hindi pagsunod sa mga batas, sa mga alituntuning itinatadhana ng ating Saligang Batas, at sa sistema ng katarungan.” (No one in our clan violates the law, the principles in our Constitution, and the justice system.)
He said his father participated in the impeachment trial against him, and refused to leave the country despite offers from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Addressing his 4 children he said, “Janella, Jolo, Julian at Jill, lagi ninyong tatandaan ang mga pangaral ko sa inyo: magkaroon ng takot sa Diyos, manatiling magalang at mapagpakumbaba, at huwag kayong mahiya bagkus ipagmalaki na kayo ay isang Estrada.”
(Always remember my teaching: have fear of the Lord, stay respectful and humble, and do not be ashamed but be proud that you are an Estrada.)
A year after the scam broke out, Estrada said the is battle is just beginning.
“Magtagumpay man silang maipakulong ako, masunod man ang kanilang gusto na mawala ako sa kanilang dinaraanan, pero ang aking prinsipyo at paninindigan, kailanman ay hindi nila makukuha sa akin.”
(They may be successful in sending me to prison, in removing me from their path, but my principles, they can never take away from me.) – Rappler.com