Jinggoy to PNoy: Stop Corona persecution

by David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 01 2012 05:18 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2012 04:03 AM

But agrees Ombudsman should file charges if evidence warrants

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada on Friday urged President Aquino not to pursue cases against deposed Chief Justice Renato Corona after he was convicted by the Senate impeachment court.

Estrada said the Senate had already done enough by stripping Corona of his position as the highest official in the judiciary.

"Palagay ko wag na. Nakakaawa eh," he said in an ANC interview.

Estrada was one of 20 senator-judges who voted to convict Corona for failing to disclose his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required under the 1987 charter.

Corona on Thursday said he will not contest the decision before the Supreme Court.

In the interview, Estrada said he had already relayed a message to Sen. Franklin Drilon to appeal to the President not to pursue more cases against Corona.

He said he felt sorry for Corona especially since more cases against him would mean further suffering for his family.

“I don’t think the government should pursue the cases against him. It will be very, very difficult for his family. Masakit. Kami napagdaanan na namin yun. Ninakawan ng pwesto, kinasuhan tapos kinulong pa. Triple whammy. It’s very painful,” he said.

“Tama na yung persecution,” he added.

Estrada said the Senate impeachment court was not able to prove that the $2.4 million in dollar deposits and P80 million in alleged commingled funds that Corona did not declare in his SALNs were stolen.

“The impeachment court did not prove that there was ill-gotten wealth. It did not come from the government. There is no proof that he stole it,” he said.

The senator admitted he can only make the appeal since the final decision is still up to the president.

File graft charges if necessary

However, in a separate interview with dzMM also on Friday, Estrada said that if the Ombudsman finds probable cause to file graft charges against Corona, then the deposed chief justice should face the music.

On ANC, he revealed that the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) already has a copy of the unconditional waiver signed by the former chief justice opening up his bank accounts to scrutiny.

This is apart from an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman on Corona’s unexplained wealth and possible money laundering.

Separate complaints have been filed by civic organizations against Corona before the Ombudsman, and Corona has already been asked by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to explain.

No pressure from Enrile

Estrada said one of the factors that influenced his vote to convict Corona is the former chief justice’s closeness to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

He said he knew that Corona’s decision favored Mrs. Arroyo when he and majority of the Supreme Court justices voted to allow her to leave the country last year.

The government, however, disregarded the SC decision and filed a case of electoral sabotage against the former president.

“I took into account the closeness of the Chief Justice to the former president. Naiisip ko yung TRO [temporary restraining order] na pinayagan si GMA na umalis. Alam naman natin pag umalis yun, di na babalik. That was one thing that stuck in my mind,” he said.

Estrada said he also found several loopholes in Corona’s testimony that convinced him that the chief justice is guilty. He said he was not convinced by Corona’s defense that the law on foreign currency deposits absolved him from declaring his dollar accounts.

“Nagkumpul-kumpol na yung aking ebidensya so I decided to convict him,” he said.

Enrile bloc vote

He also denied that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile influenced his vote amid reports that he is part of the “Enrile bloc” in the Senate.

“To be fair, the Senate President told us from the very start that he will not influence the votes that we are going to render. Sinabi niya sa amin ‘Kung ano man ang maging desisyon ko, bahala kayo. You take the evidence that you have and you decide.’ Walang samaan ng loob. Walang bloc voting.”

He also admitted that he and several senators met at Sen. Loren Legarda’s house to talk about their votes in the impeachment trial before Tuesday’s actual verdict. Present in the meeting were Estrada, Legarda, Manny Villar, Bong Revilla, Gregorio Honasan and Tito Sotto.

He also revealed that at least one of the senators present in the meeting was undecided on whether or not to convict Corona. He did not identify the senator.

“We laid our cards on the table and we let the Senate President, Manong Johnny, hear our decision, our inclination. Majority was for conviction. Honestly, I had a lot of sleepless nights thinking about it. I just didn’t want some people to experience what we had experienced before. It was quite painful. I admit I could have voted not guilty but based on all the evidence, I was really convinced that he was guilty,” he said.