MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman reversed itself and granted the request of Senator Jinggoy Estrada for copies of counter-affidavits of Ruby Tuason, Dennis Cunanan, and other respondents in the plunder case filed against him in connection with the pork barrel scam.
In a joint order dated May 7 and received by Estrada's lawyer today, May 8, the Office of the Ombudsman found Estrada's request "to be in order" and gave him a "non-extendible period" of five days to comment on the copies of the counter-affidavits.
Estrada expressed surprise as he received the order day after he filed a petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court questioning the earlier March 27 decision of the Ombudsman to deny Estrada's request for copies of the counter-affidavits "for lack of cogent basis."
He finds the five-day period "too short" for him to reply, saying the documents are "voluminous."
"It was a surprise, actually. Bigla nila kaming finurnishan ng copy. And we were only given five days to answer, to give a reply. Five days is such a short time kasi I heard they delivered voluminous documents and it's quite impossible for us, or for me and my lawyers to answer it in five days," Estrada said.
Estrada said that in issuing the new order, the Ombudsman virtually admitted that it committed grave abuse of discretion.
"It took them a long time to think about it. For me, it's already an admission that they committed an abuse of discretion of not giving us the documents that we needed for us to refute the allegations of the new whistleblowers like Mrs. Tuason, Dennis Cunanan and the others," Estrada said.
Estrada said in his petition that it violated his constitutional right to due process by denying him the opportunity to rebut the evidence against him.
The Ombudsman's March 27 order read: "To reiterate, the rights of respondent Estrada in the conduct of the preliminary investigation depend on the rights granted to him by law and these cannot be based on whatever rights he believes he is entitled to or those that may be derived from the phrase 'due process of law.'"
Estrada has asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order and/or a preliminary injunction to stop the Ombudsman from conducting further proceedings relative to the case.
He also wants the high court to declare the Ombudsman's proceedings as null and void, saying that the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion.