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Estrada hopeful, options still open

OPTIMISTIC of his acquittal in the P183-plunder case filed against him before the Sandiganbayan, Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada says he will run for vice president in 2016 as running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

After attending his bail hearing Tuesday at the Sandiganbayan, Estrada said the plunder and 15 counts of graft charges against him in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam are “weak,” and could be thrown out for lack of merit.

“My options are still open,” he told  reporters.

“I will run in 2016 for a higher office and am confident I will not campaign inside the jail. I believe there is no direct evidence to pin me down to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (scam.) That’s why I am challenging the prosecution to present (whistleblower Benhur) Luy.”

He said he doesn’t believe Vice President Jejomar Binay will leave UNA to coalesce with the Liberal Party in 2016.

“I don’t think Binay will abandon the party because he is one of the three kings of UNA,” he said.

Former president and Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and Binay are the so-called Three Kings of UNA, an opposition coalition of Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino and Binay’s Partido Demokratikong Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan which the trio created in the 2010 presidential elections.

Mayor Estrada, who accompanied his son during the bail hearing, said he too was confident that his son would be absolved from the case.

“We have the evidence to prove that he is innocent of the charges. Believe Jinggoy could see his release before 2016. We (the family) will support him if he runs for a higher office,” he added.

There had already been talks within UNA that Jinggoy would be Binay’s running mate even before the pork barrel fund scam plunder and graft charges were filed against the senator, he noted.

Meanwhile, Senator Estrada said he has been praying, exercising, and even drafting and signing proposed bills at the Senate through his staff.

He said he is suffering from boredom. “I am so bored inside. I am still filing bills, signing many of them. One of them is a measure seeking to improve all jail facilities in the country,” he noted.

On the other hand, Estrada’s lawyer, Sabino Acut, verbally urged the Fifth Division’s Associate Justices Rolando Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores Estoesta to allow Estrada to hold weekly committee hearings inside his detention facility at the Philippine National Police-Custodial Center at Camp Crame.

Estrada is the chairman of the committees on labor, employment and human resources development.

But Gesmundo ordered Acut to file a motion for such purpose.

Estrada said he is still allowed to perform his duties and functions since the 90-day suspension order of the anti-graft court has not yet been made final.

Also during Estrada’s bail hearing, Stephen David, Janet Lim Napoles’ lawyer, subjected Ombudsman lawyer Vic Escalante to a cross-examination.

David asked Escalante if he could show the pictures of the pork barrel-funded projects.

Escalante said the transactions with Estrada involved some 10 Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) allegedly used for the funding of the Priority Development Assistance Fund of Estrada.

David had itemized pieces of evidence, such as the certificates of acceptance, acknowledgement receipts, memoranda of agreement, checks withdrawn and encashed, and inspection reports to be presented by Escalante.

The documents being questioned in the cross-examination also showed there were many people, including mayors, agriculturists, independent auditors and resident auditors, as signatories in various documents.

David said Escalante and the Ombudsman’s field investigators had been selective in the filing of the plunder and graft charges based on the testimonies of Luy and the other whistleblowers.

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