The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan today rejected the request of former senator Jinggoy Estrada and businesswoman Janet Napoles to have their plunder cases dismissed.
That means that Estrada and Napoles will have to present their own evidence to prove that they were innocent of the crime, or else the court will convict them, reported Rappler.
The two have been accused of pocketing PHP183 million (US$3.464 million) from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which the government provides lawmakers.
In 2013, Estrada and his then-colleagues in the Senate, Ramon Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile, were accused of receiving kickbacks from the PDAF.
The PDAF is a fund given to members of the country’s House of Representatives and the Senate. Initiated in 1990, the fund is supposed to be used to fund small-scale infrastructure projects and social services, but have been the subject of numerous cases of alleged corruption.
This includes Estrada’s case. in which he allegedly funneled PDAF funds into the projects of several questionable non-government organizations, some of which were linked to Napoles. A witness in the case who worked for Napoles, Benhur Luy, said he made the transactions with Estrada, whom he gave the alias “Sexy.”
After Revilla was acquitted of his plunder case in December (in which Napoles was convicted), Estrada said he became confident that he would be exonerated as well. In March, he and Napoles filed a demurrer, which could have led to the dismissal of their plunder case if the prosecution’s evidence was judged to be weak.
In their demurrers, Estrada and Napoles said that the evidence from the prosecution did not establish that they were guilty of plunder and that they deserve to be acquitted of the crime, ABS-CBN News reported.
However, the Sandiganbayan’s fifth division said in a resolution dated today that the prosecutors’ evidence was sound, GMA News reported.
“This court is convinced that the prosecution presented sufficient evidence, both testimonial and documentary, which established each element of the crime of plunder against the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said.
“This, if unrebutted by contrary evidence, is sufficient to support a conviction.”
Estrada, who ran but lost in this year’s midterm senatorial elections, is currently out on bail. Napoles is in the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong where she was imprisoned following her conviction for plunder in the Revilla case in December.