Estrada asks SC relief from plunder case

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

(UPDATED) SENATOR Jinggoy Estrada asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to reverse the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman finding probable cause to indict him for plunder in connection with his involvement in the pork barrel scam.

In a 29-page petition, Estrada said his constitutional right to due process was "grievously ignored, trampled upon and violated" after the Ombudsman denied his request to be furnished with copies of the affidavits of the whistleblowers and other respondents which were used as basis in indicting him.

He lamented that the anti-graft body's finding of probable cause dated April 1 was "premised on evidence not disclosed to him" and that he was effectively prevented from exercising his right to answer and to rebut the allegations made against him.

"The Office of the Ombudsman shirked and evaded its responsibility and went so far as to deny the existence of such positive duty on its part. Such virtual refusal to perform a positive duty imposed by law is nothing less than grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman, from which Senator Estrada seeks relief from this Honorable Court," the petition read.

On March 20, Estrada filed his request to be furnished with copies of counter-affidavits of the respondents, affidavits of new witnesses and other filings in order to "be apprised of the allegations of the other respondents and to be given notice of all the evidence presented" incident to the preliminary investigation.

Specifically, he requested that he be formally furnished with the following documents: a) Affidavit of Ruby Tuason; b) Affidavit of Dennis Cunanan; c) Counter-affidavit of Gondelina Amata (President of the National Livelihood Development Corp.); d) Counter-affidavit of Mario Relampagos (Undersecretary for Operations of the Department of Budget and Management); e) Consolidated reply of the NBI; f) Affidavit/counter-affidavits/pleadings/filings filed by other respondents and/or additional witnesses for the complainants.

The Ombudsman denied the request on March 27, saying that there was supposedly no requirement that Estrada be provided copies of the aforementioned documents.

Estrada, who has been accused of pocketing P183.79 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), said that the Ombudsman violated the Rules of Court and its own Rules of Procedure in refusing to furnish copies of affidavits and other filings that touch upon the charges upon him.

Section 4(c), Rule II of the Ombudsman Rules of Procedure of the Ombudsman expressly grants any person charged before it the right to access to the records of the preliminary investigation.

In his petition, Estrada also cited an SC ruling upholding the right of the person under investigation by the Ombudsman to be furnished not only the evidence presented by the complainant, but also those presented by co-respondents that are material to the charge against him.

The act of the Ombudsman is "not just a procedural misstep but is tantamount to an absolute refusal to perform a positive duty imposed by law and constitutes grave abuse of discretion," the petition read.

"By intentionally withholding filings in its possession, including pieces of evidence it eventually used in precipitately deciding on the existence of probable cause, Ombudsman violated the right of Estrada to be apprised of the records of the case pertinent to the charges against him," the petition further stated.

The Ombudsman has yet to release a resolution on Estrada's appeal not to be charged before the Sandiganbayan. (Camille P. Balagtas/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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