Estrada: ‘I will not evade arrest’

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Friday, April 4, 2014


BELEAGUERED Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who is currently in the United States, on Friday promised to return to the country even if the Sandiganbayan will issue a warrant of arrest against him.

The Ombudsman earlier recommended the filing of plunder charges against Senators Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. before the Sandiganbayan, over their alleged misuse of pork barrel funds.

Estrada maintained that his conscience is clear and he will not hesitate to come back and answer the charges being hurled against him.

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At the same time, Estrada said he will not question the Sandiganbayan should the court decide to place him in a regular detention cell.

Estrada junked calls by those urging him and two other embattled colleagues to take a leave of absence in view of the possible suspension order from the anti-graft court.

"Why should I take a leave of absence? My conscience is clear. I committed no crime. I have not stolen money from the people. The matter is now in the hands of the Sandiganbayan. We will follow the orders of the court," the senator said.

The Senator from San Juan said there is no reason for him to evade arrest or hide because he intend to face squarely the accusations hurled against him at the proper court as he promised to return to the country on the night of April 21.

Estrada meantime refused to comment on the possibility of being under the custody of the Senate leadership.

Senate President Franklin Drilon a staunch ally of President Benigno Aquino III earlier said it is up to the court to decide on the case of the three accused senators.

An administration congressman earlier raised the possibility of Drilon holding in custody the three accused senators.

Northern Samar Representative Emil Ong said in a report that he believes there is nothing illegal if Drilon seeks Senate custody of the three senators, instead of their being detained in regular cells.

"In the event Senate President Drilon holds the three senators under his custody, that has to be respected by the court," Ong was quoted as saying.

"However, for that to happen, a resolution has to be filed before the Senate to that effect, which Senator Drilon can also do for himself," said Ong.

Once the resolution is adopted by the Senate, Ong said the chamber should then file a motion before the Sandiganbayan seeking custody for the three lawmakers.

Once the Senate assumes custody over the three senators, they would not be allowed to leave the country and should always be present in all Senate proceedings.

Ong's proposal is nothing new as it has been applied during the time of former Speaker Jose de Venecia who took custody of former members of the House -- Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, Rafael Mariano, Joel Virador and Liza Masa -- when they were slapped with rebellion charges by the Arroyo administration.

Drilon, for his part, said regardless of one's position, all of them must respect the law. The order from the Sandiganbayan will be respected and adhered to by the Senate.

Up until Friday, Estrada kept on assuring that he intends to return to the country and face the charges, even as he continues to claim the apparent bias of Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III and the questionable timing of the Ombudsman's announcement on the filing of the charges against them which came almost simultaneous with the release of the Senate panel report.

"We have been charged by the Office of the Ombudsman and we have no other legal recourse but to file a motion for reconsideration within five days. The charges were received by my lawyers last Tuesday and we will be filing a Motion for Reconsideration on Monday next week, April 7," Estrada said.

But Guingona belied the accusation of Estrada, saying everything was done accordingly based on the rules and procedure.

Guingona said there is nothing personal about his report and although there is an accusation of being bias, he refused to say anything about the issue, "until such time that members of the Blue Ribbon committee will give their recommendation on the report. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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