MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3 – 7:46 p.m.) Former senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada was released from detention past noon on Saturday, September 16, after posting the P1.33-million bail required by the Sandiganbayan for his provisional liberty on the charges of plunder and graft he is being tried for.
Estrada left the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame in a white coaster around 12:30 p.m., soon after his lawyer Alexis Suarez arrived with the release order, and was taken to the Sandiganbayan for his booking procedure.
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In a brief message he delivered from the coaster, his wife Precy beside him, Estrada said: “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon, nagpapasalamat ako sa Sandiganbayan at nagpapasalamat ako sa lahat ng nananalngin para sa aking kalayaan (I thank the Lord, I thank the Sandiganbayan and I think all those who prayed for my liberty).”
Before leaving Camp Crame, Estrada underwent a medical checkup.
He was scheduled to have lunch with his family and then attend a thanksgiving mass at the Pinaglabanan church in San Juan City.
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Estrada is being tried by the anti-graft court’s 5th division on charges over his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam, in which lawmakers allegedly conspired with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles to funnel off as much as P10 billion in public funds through bogus beneficiaries.
Estrada was required to post P1 million for the plunder charge and P330,000 for 11 counts of graft.
In June 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman charged Estrada, along with then fellow senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.
They were arrested soon after.
Of the P745.63 million worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund allegedly amassed by five lawmakers, who supposedly got the biggest kickbacks from their transactions with Napoles, 78 percent or P581.14 million was said to have been accumulated by Revilla (P224.512 million), Estrada (183.793 million), and Enrile (172.834 million).
Enrile was freed on humanitarian grounds in August 2015 after more than a year of being under hospital arrest. The Supreme Court allowed his release after he posted a P1.45-million bail.
In an interview with News5, Estrada indicated that he is ready to accept an offer to serve in the Duterte Cabinet: “I’m willing. Why not? Alam mo si Presidente Duterte, Matagal ko nang kilala. He really has heart, totoong tao hindi plastic (I have known President Duterte for a long time. He’s real. Not plastic).”
He would also look forward to having an audience with the President. “I support the war on drugs. 101%,” he added.
He clarified, though, that, while President Duterte’s recent pronouncements regarding setting him and former senator Ramon Revilla Jr. free temporarily may have something to do with his successful bail appeal, Estrada explained that his defense lawyers worked hard to find a new angle that worked, after a previous plea for bail failed to sway the court.
But he says it pains him to see Revilla remain still in detention, though he is confident that things would soon turn around for Revilla: “We all face the same legal situation. I don’t see any difference between his case and mine, or even former senator Juan Ponce Enrile.”
While he holds no grudge against Senator Leila de Lima, who as secretary of justice was in the forefront of prosecuting the PDAF pork barrel scandal that sent him to jail, he said he won’t soon forget the three years of hardship experienced in detention: “Napatawad ko na, pero ‘di ko nakakalimutan.”