MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, on vacation in the United States, has rejected calls for him to take a leave of absence from the Senate.
In a television interview, Estrada said a politically motivated, orchestrated effort is being undertaken to go after him and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr.
“Why should I take a leave of absence?” he asked in Filipino. “My conscience is clear. I have not done any wrong. I did not steal from the people.”
He swore innocence on all charges against him.
The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict Estrada, Enrile and Revilla before the Sandiganbayan.
Estrada said charging them in court was clearly planned because the ombudsman did not take long to go over their cases in spite of previous pronouncements that it would take more than a year to go through all documents in its possession.
“And it was timed with the release of the committee report of the Blue Ribbon,” he said.
Revilla is also abroad with his family for a pilgrimage to Israel.
Both Estrada and Revilla have vowed to return to the country to face the charges against them.
In a radio interview, Revilla said in Filipino that he will not flee as some people are saying because he is not that kind of person.
“I will face it even if my life is put at risk,” he said.
“I cannot run away from these false allegations. This is the only time that I can clear my name so I cannot run away from this case.”
The allegations are all part of the political persecution of him and his family, he added.
Revilla denied a report that he had met with former senator Panfilo Lacson to discuss details of how he managed to evade arrest for more than a year.
In a statement, Revilla said he met with Lacson after the 2013 elections “for the purpose of leaving the local elections in Cavite behind us.”
“Our meeting was an act of magnanimity from both sides, as we wanted to ensure that our friendship was not affected,” he said.
The sons of Revilla and Lacson ran against each other for the vice gubernatorial post in Cavite.
Revilla said that during their meeting, Lacson expressed his sympathy for the persecution he was going through, and jokingly asked him if he was going into hiding.
“To impute any malice to that meeting is foul,” he said. “I did not consult him on how he evaded the law, much more prod him to tell me.”
Revilla said the persecution of him has been relentless.
“You don’t hit a man when he’s down,” he said.