Senator Jinggoy Estrada waves to the crowd waiting at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame on Monday. Estrada surrendered to authorities after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division ordered the senator's arrest on graft and plunder charges. Photo by Manny Palmero for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman on Friday withdrew its motion to amend the plunder complaint against Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division warned it could lead to the release of the accused from detention.
The Sandiganbayan disagreed with prosecutors that the amendment would not change the substance of the plunder charge.
Justice Roland Jurado told the prosecution that if they are amending the information, the court may have to release the accused, prompting the prosecution to withdraw the motion.
Justice Alexander Gesmundo pointed out that the prosecution removed the word "conspiracy" and replaced it with the word "collaboration", which basically spelled the difference between the old information and the amended information.
Estrada faces one count of plunder and 11 counts of graft for allegedly receiving P183 million in pork barrel kickbacks from 2004 to 2012. He is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Ombudsman prosecutors earlier sought to rephrase information in the plunder case against Estrada and Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr.
The prosecutors wanted to insert the words "collecting (kickbacks) directly or indirectly (from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles)” in the charges against the senators.
Originally, it was worded in such a way that the three senators only “received” kickbacks from Napoles.
Defense lawyers said this only emphasizes the alleged crime of Napoles, not the senators. They said that if Napoles were the only one who profited from the pork barrel transactions, there would be no plunder by the senators.
The prosecution also moved to add the phrase, "by exerting undue pressure on the implementing agencies to favorably act on his endorsement of the NGOs of Napoles to ensure that his [Priority Development Assistance Fund] be in the possession and control of Napoles and her cohorts which undue pressure and endorsement, were in exchange of kickbacks percentage or commissions, thereby unjustly enriching himself,” to the charges against the senators.
Revilla and his colleagues, Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, earlier put the blame on government agencies – the implementing agencies – for not assessing the capability of NGOs to which their pork barrel will be channeled. The NGOs turned out to be bogus.