MANILA - Former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada walked free four months ago under a noticeably different political environment.
Gone was the administration he blamed for his 3-year detention on plunder and graft charges, replaced by a president he now supports for “having the balls.”
But Estrada claimed President Rodrigo Duterte exerted no political influence over the anti-graft court, which allowed him to post a P1.33-million bail last September.
“Hindi nakialam si Presidente (The President did not have a hand in this). I swear,” Estrada told ANC in an interview aired Monday. “He never lifted a finger.”
Estrada admitted Duterte’s frequent attacks on the Ombudman’s alleged “selective justice”—an oft repeated claim of his as well—served as a “morale booster.”
To this day, Estrada claims his detention had been “politically motivated.”
Taking a leaf from his father’s political playbook, he has been going around the country since his provisional release supposedly to thank supporters.
Former President Joseph Estrada went on his own “lakbay pasasalamat” (thanksgiving tour) after he was pardoned in 2007, a prelude to his second presidential run 3 years later.
The younger Estrada said he was keeping his options open in next year’s senatorial election.
“If ever I decide to run and if I win, siguro I'll be vindicated,” he said.
Estrada is still on trial for allegedly stealing P183 million in "pork barrel" or congressional funds, part of an elaborate corruption scheme ran by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
During the Arroyo administration, he was also jailed but later acquitted on another plunder case involving alleged kickbacks from the illegal numbers game “jueteng.”
“Political lang lahat yan (That's all political),” he said of both plunder charges.
One of Estrada’s most vocal critics during the previous administration has found herself switching places with him.
Sen. Leila De Lima is detained at the same facility in Camp Crame where Estrada had spent the tail end of his term as senator in 2014.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, led the investigation into the pork barrel scam and filed charges against Estrada and two other senators.
Estrada dismissed De Lima’s claim that she’s now the victim of political persecution.
De Lima has been criticizing human rights violations in Duterte’s brutal drug war.
“I don't think that is political,” Estrada said, citing the gravity of accusations against the incumbent senator.
De Lima has denied any involvement in the proliferation of the drug trade at the state penitentiary under her watch as justice secretary.
“Yung sa kanya, drugs. Mas mabigat yun (She's facing a drug case. That's more serious),” Estrada said.