MANILA - The camp of Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday said the senator did not know he was endorsing non-government organizations of Janet Lim Napoles despite being friends with the businesswoman.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, lawyer Alexis Abastillas said Estrada could not have known that the NGOs were owned by Mrs. Napoles because her name did not appear in the registration papers. She also said Estrada's role was merely recommendatory.
"If you see the NGOs and the registration, the name of Napoles will not appear there. Maybe he will recommend but I don't think he knows anything about the NGOs controlled by Napoles. Maybe not knowingly," she said.
"They may be associates. They may have some associations but it does not mean they are conspiring with each other. Mere association does not mean they are conspiring with each other."
She also noted that Estrada did not know that he was funding "ghost projects" of the Napoles NGOs.
"I think Benhur Luy admitted in his statement before the Senate that they would make it appear that the projects were implemented when it actuality they were not. They would also forge signatures," she said.
Estrada has made no secret of his friendship with Mrs. Napoles. He earlier said his wife, Precy, introduced him to Napoles because their daughter goes to the same school as Janet's niece.
Photos have also shown Napoles attending at least two parties with the Estradas.
At least one witness, Ruby Tuason, has testified she delivered millions of pesos in pork barrel kickbacks from Napoles to Jinggoy. She said she even delivered the kickbacks to Estrada's office in the Senate.
Estrada is currently facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly amassing or misappropriating P278 million of his priority development assistance funds.
In the interview, Abastillas said she is sure her client is innocent of the charges. "His conscience is clear," she said.
She also echoed Estrada's claim that politics is a key factor in the filing of plunder and graft charges against the three senators.
Only three senators have been prosecuted thus far although the Commission on Audit identified other lawmakers who allegedly funneled funds to Napoles NGOs.
"I think maybe because Sen. Bong is also a strong contender for 2016. Also Senator Jinggoy for Vice-President. I think Enrile because of his influence in the (United Nationalist Alliance). His influence is strong as well as his popularity because of the impeachment trial with former Chief Justice (Renato) Corona," she said.
Abastillas said she doubts there is proof her client took kickbacks.
She also said Estrada's camp still hopes that the Supreme Court will dismiss the charges against him after the Ombudsman failed to follow several rules of procedure including providing the senator with copies of the whistle-blowers'affidavits and the counter-affidavits' of other respondents.
"Every accused has a right to be informed of the nature and cause of accusations against him in order for him to rebut the accusation. They gave us the affidavits only after we filed the action. We brought the action of the Ombudsman to the Supreme Court. That's further violation of the constitutional rights of due process of Senator Jinggoy," she said.