Ombudsman appeals bail of ex-senator Jinggoy Estrada over pork barrel scam

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 29) — The Ombudsman on Tuesday filed an appeal to let a former senator charged with plunder go back to detention.

In a motion for reconsideration dated September 25 filed before the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division, state prosecutors said the anti-graft court made a mistake when it allowed former senator Jinggoy Estrada to post bail over his pork barrel scam case.

Estrada was released from detention at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on September 16 after three years. The Sandiganbayan allowed him to post P1 million in bail, ruling that "the evidence has not strongly established accused Estrada as the main plunderer."

The Ombudsman asked the Sandiganbayan to reverse the ruling, which was based on the "main plunderer" doctrine.

The Fifth Division anchored its ruling on a Supreme Court decision acquitting former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on grounds that the Ombudsman failed to identify her as the main plunderer in the charge sheet. 

"Let it be stressed that the text of the Plunder Law does not expressly require the prosecution to allege or identify or even prove the so-called main plunderer among the co-conspirators in the crime of plunder," the motion for reconsideration read.

The prosecution added the law recognizes plunder may be committed collectively. When it is committed as a collective act by more than one accused, there is no main plunderer as all conspiring participants are equally deemed plunderers.

Related: Jinggoy Estrada posts bail for plunder case

In granting bail to Estrada, the Sandiganbayan also said he is not a flight risk. The Ombudsman argued this was another mistake.

"In applications for bail involving non-bailable offenses, only one factor is to be considered, that is, whether the evidence of guilt is strong," it said. 

Estrada allegedly received ₱183 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund, also known as pork barrel or funds a lawmaker can spend for projects. Plunder is considered a non-bailable offense.

The Ombudsman's appeal is set for hearing before the Fifth Division on Monday, October 2. Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval will argue for the prosecution.