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Jinggoy won’t go on leave while facing plunder raps

Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday said he does not see any reason to go on leave as senator while facing the plunder charge recommended against him by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam.

In a television interview, Estrada maintained his innocence in the face of accusations that he pocketed millions in his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations, which were allegedly coursed through fake foundations associated with detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

"Bakit ako magli-leave of absence? Malinis ang aking konsensya. Wala akong kasalanan. Wala akong ninakaw sa taumbayan," Estrada said over GMA News TV's "News To Go."

He, however, vowed to comply with any suspension order that may be issued by the Sandiganbayan should the Ombudsman decide with finality to elevate the plunder charge to the anti-graft court.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman announced that it has decided to charge Senators Estrada, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile with plunder over the alleged pork barrel scam. 

All three senators have earlier denied involvement in the alleged scam. Both Estrada and Revilla have already expressed intention to appeal the Ombudsman's ruling on their plunder charges. 

Estrada, an opposition senator, likewise insisted that the Ombudsman's decision to recommend the filing of plunder charges against him and his two colleagues was politically motivated.

"Unang-una, halatang-halata na tatatlong senador lang na kasapi ng oposisyon ang kanilang kinasuhan. Sinasabi nila mayroong second batch, third batch, pero hanggang ngayon ay wala pa rin daw," Estrada said.

In his response to the plunder complaint against him, Estrada earlier maintained his participation in PDAF-funded projects was “recommendatory at best." He also blamed government agencies that supposedly funneled funds to Napoles-linked foundations.

In 2001, Estrada already faced a plunder case before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly conspiring with his father, former President Joseph Estrada, to amass billions of ill-gotten wealth from jueteng operations and kickbacks from tobacco excise taxes.

In 2007, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Senator Estrada in relation to this plunder case, although his father was convicted. — Andreo Calonzo/RSJ, GMA News