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Senator Jinggoy Estrada (Courtesy: Joseph Vidal/Senate Social Media Unit)

PDAF scam: Jinggoy Estrada acquitted of plunder, convicted of bribery

by Carl Santos

THE Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Friday acquitted Senator Jinggoy Estrada of plunder in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

Estrada, however, was found guilty of one count of direct bribery and two counts of indirect bribery.

For direct bribery, the senator was sentenced to eight to nine years and four months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of P3 million. He may also spend up to six years in jail for his conviction on two counts of indirect bribery.

The accessory penalties include suspension from public office and perpetual disqualification from the right of suffrage.

Former businesswoman Janet Napoles, meanwhile, was convicted of corruption of public officials.

She was sentenced to several years in prison and was directed to pay a fine of P29.265 million and indemnify the government in the amount of P262,034,000 with interest of 6% per annum reckoned from the finality of the decision until full payment.

Estrada, who attended the promulgation of the decision, said his acquittal in the plunder case was ‘’vindication of my name.’’

The senator said he would appeal the decision with regard to his conviction for direct bribery and indirect bribery.

‘’I will instruct my lawyers to exhaust all legal remedies,’’ said Estrada, who was released on bail in September 2017 after three years in police custody over the PDAF case.

The decision was based on allegations that between 2004 and 2012, Estrada received kickbacks for misappropriating P183.79 million from his PDAF allocation to fund non-government organizations affiliated with Napoles.

These NGOs carried out projects that proved to be fictitious.

In the crime of plunder, the Sandiganbayan said the amount of ill-gotten wealth acquired must be at least P50 million.

‘’Examining the evidence, the Court fails to see concrete evidence that Estrada personally gained, benefited from, or used the monies allegedly taken from the alleged transactions that were recorded in [witness and former Napoles employee Benhur] Luy’s summary of rebates in the amount of P50 million or more,’’ the decision stated.

However, the prosecution was able to establish that Estrada received bribe money worth P1 million, which was deposited into his bank account in September 2008.

The court also said that indirect bribery was already consummated when the senator received P1.5 million in “advance commission” from Napoles through witness Ruby Tuason.

“Senator Estrada obviously intended to appropriate the money as his own since he accepted the money without hesitation. In fact, he even thanked Ruby Tuason after receiving the said amount,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“These acts unambiguously establish bad faith on the part of Senator Estrada. His claim of innocence was further negated when he subsequently received the amount of P4,200,000.00,” it added.

‘’Notwithstanding the fact that Senator Estrada later returned the money through Tuason, the crime of indirect bribery was already consummated the moment he accepted the bribe money.’’

The decision was signed by Associate Justices Rafael Lagos, Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.



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