MANILA — The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division will continue to hear the plunder and graft cases of detained Senator Jinggoy Estrada and alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles after magistrates led by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang on Wednesday unanimously rejected the request for recusal of the three justices.
In a special en banc session, Tang said the anti-graft court did not find the “personal reasons” of the justices compelling enough to grant their request.
The presiding justice explained that it was not due to pressure of any kind related to their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), or to threats to the lives of the justices for she refused to divulge the alleged “personal reasons” behind the collegial inhibition.
“Let me set the record straight. It has nothing to do with release of our SALN to the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue), or any alleged bank account investigation of the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council). There has never been any pressure from Malacañang either,” Tang told reporters in a press briefing.
“I hope you will respect them, they wished for this to be confidential,” she added.
Executive Clerk of Court Atty. Renato Bocar on Tuesday said “the Presiding Justice has no legal authority or power even the Sandiganbayan en banc to deny the inhibition of Justices because it is in the Rules of Court that any justice can inhibit on just and valid grounds.”
The Sandiganbayan en banc “did not find just and valid reasons” which made them decide to reject recusal of the justices of the Fifth Division.
In a one-page document submitted Monday to Tang, Associate Justices Roland Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores Estoesta requested to inhibit in handling Estrada’s case.
Estrada is facing plunder and graft charges allegedly diverting millions of pesos in his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations owned by Napoles for kickbacks.