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Court sides with senator on forgery in pork barrel case

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

THE PHILIPPINES’ anti-graft court has affirmed its Aug. 30 order acknowledging the forgery of a senator’s signatures in a corruption case that accused him of pocketing P183.3 million in so-called pork barrel funds.

In a four-page resolution dated Oct. 26, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division dismissed a government motion seeking to block Senator Jose “Jinggoy” E. Estrada’s plea for the court to consider the forgery as a fact.

“These are mere repetitions of its earlier arguments in its opposition to the motion for judicial notice,” Associate Justice Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega said in the order.

The court agreed with the senator, who is out on bail, that “the admissibility of evidence depends on its relevance and competence, while the weight of evidence pertains to evidence already admitted and its tendency to convince and persuade.”

Government prosecutors earlier argued that Mr. Estrada had never claimed that his signatures in pork barrel documents were forged. They added that there were no witnesses who testified that his signatures were faked.

The lawmaker earlier argued that the Commission on Audit had found that the whistleblower in the scam had forged documents used in the anomalous projects.

In 2017, Mr. Estrada posted bail worth P1.33 million after being detained for three years over separate plunder and graft charges.

He was accused of pocketing P183.3 million of congressional funds channeled to fictitious organizations.

Mr. Estrada won a Senate seat after getting 15 million votes in the May 9 elections.

The pork barrel allowed lawmakers to fund small-scale projects in their districts that fell outside the national infrastructure program and was abolished by the Supreme Court for being illegal. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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