Jinggoy Estrada out on bail after 3 years in detention

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Story updated to include Jinggoy Estrada's statement.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 16) — Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada said on Saturday he felt "very, very happy" following his temporary release from detention.

Read: Jinggoy Estrada posts bail for plunder case

At 12:36 p.m., Estrada left the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame.

"I would like to thank our Lord God for giving me this opportunity," Estrada told reporters at the Sandiganbayan after his camp paid P1.3 million in bail for his plunder and graft cases.

 

"I would like to thank the magistrates of the Sandiganbayan for approving my petition for bail," he added. "And I would like to thank all my family and my supporters for their non-ending prayers for me."

His release came after the Sandiganbayan's Special Fifth Division granted on Friday his petition for bail because "the evidence has not strongly established accused Estrada as the main plunderer."

Read: Sandiganbayan allows Jinggoy Estrada to post bail

However, the decision does not rule on Estrada's guilt or innocence in the case.

"I'm a free man already," he said. "But I will always attend, religiously attend the hearings of my plunder case."

The PDAF scam

Estrada, who had been detained at the PNP Custodial Center since 2014, allegedly received ₱183 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as pork barrel or funds a lawmaker can spend for projects.

The Ombudsman filed plunder charges against Estrada in June 2014, with the Sandiganbayan ordering his arrest later that month.

Under the law, plunder is usually a non-bailable offense.

The anti-graft court denied Estrada's first petition to post bail in January 2016 after "finding that the prosecution has presented a strong evidence of guilt against him."

He filed his second bail petition in September 2016, following a remark by President Rodrigo Duterte that Estrada and former senator Bong Revilla should be granted bail and that the Ombudsman was practicing "selective justice."

"Hindi ko alam kung nakatulong, but what President Duterte said two, three weeks ago is very true dahil tatlo lang kami na identified sa opposition ang pinili at kinasuhan pa and non-bailable na plunder," Estrada said. "So it was very obvious."

[Translation: I don't know if it helped, but what President Duterte said two, three weeks ago is very true because only the three of us senators identified with the opposition were charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense. So it was very obvious.]

 

In August 2017, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied Duterte's allegation.

Read: Ombudsman denies Duterte's claims of 'selective justice'

The grant of Estrada's bail came after former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who has also been implicated in the so-called pork barrel scam and faces plunder charges, was allowed by the Supreme Court in August 2015 to post bail for "humanitarian reasons" in light of his age and poor health.

The lawmakers were named by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam that was unearthed by investigative media reports in July 2013.

An estimated ₱10 billion in government funds were allegedly lost from the scam, with money going into the pockets of Napoles and lawmakers.

'Stay strong'

Estrada said he hopes Revilla, whom he will miss, would also be freed soon.

"Sabi ko, 'Palakasin niya loob niya at balang araw ay makakamit din niya ang kanyang kalayaan [I said, "Stay strong and you'll also be free one day"],'" he said of his last conversation with Revilla.

Estrada added he may return to public service in the future.

"Let's cross the bridge when we get there," he said.

 

"Maraming paraan para tumulong sa ating mga kababayan," Estrada added. "Unang-una, pwede naman tayong umikot sa buong Pilipinas at tanungin sila kung ano ang kanilang kailangan. At 'yun naman ay maidudulog natin sa mga kinauukulan."

[Translation:There are many ways to help our countrymen. First, we could go around the country and ask them what they need. And those concerns can be brought to the attention of officials.]