Fil-Am group to Ombudsman: Revoke Jinggoy’s trip to US
Dear Honorable Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales:
It was reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on April 2, 2018 that the Sandiganbayan had announced on that day that “it would have to wait for the Ombudsman prosecutors on the issue of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s stint as a speaker for a program that was disowned by a United States- based advocacy group on good governance.”
The “United States-based advocacy group on good governance” is the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) which was founded in Manila at the Sofitel Hotel on July 1-2, 2010 by over 200 delegates who came from all over the US to attend the inauguration of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III. The delegates elected Loida Nicolas Lewis from New York as national chair and Rodel Rodis from San Francisco as president, and organized chapters throughout the United States composed of members advocating for good governance and dedicated to fighting the scourge of corruption.
Perhaps the worst example of government corruption was the P10 Billion Pesos ($200M) scam involving the diversion of Philippine Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) by government fixer Janet Lim Napoles and certain elected legislators. According to Philippine government prosecutors, among the worst abusers of this pork barrel scam was Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who was charged with pocketing P183 million pesos of government funds. Estrada was arrested and charged with plunder and is presently out on bail.
While his plunder trial is proceeding in the Sandiganbayan Court, Sen. Estrada filed a motion to be allowed to travel to the US from April 30 through May 31. According to news reports, Estrada’s motion alleged that “he had accepted the invitation as speaker for the May 20 meeting of US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG), an organization headed by Filipino-American philanthropist Loida Nicolas-Lewis.”
Estrada’s motion attached a letter from USP4GG Michigan president William Dechavez stating that USPGG members want to know about “extrajudicial killings, Dengvaxia mess and federalism plan.”
Based on this representation, the Sandiganbayan approved Estrada’s request for a month-long trip to the United States with his family.
When USPGG national officials learned about this Sandiganbayan decision based on an alleged invitation by USPGG Michigan Chair Willie Dechavez, we immediately contacted Mr. Dechavez who was on vacation in his hometown of Bacon, Sorsogon. Mr. Dechavez informed me that he was not aware of the news regarding Sen. Estrada and asked me to send him a copy of the Philippine Daily Inquirer news report about it.
Mr. Dechavez clarified that his friend from Michigan, Tony Antonio, who is a close friend of Sen. Estrada, had asked him if he could use USPGG to invite Sen. Estrada. Mr. Dechavez said that he told Mr. Antonio that he could only use his name as an individual but NOT the organization, as he would need to clear it with his members, and he was in Sorsogon.
But apparently, that did not deter Mr. Antonio from preparing an invitation to Sen. Estrada on official USPGG stationary with the forged signature of Mr. Dechavez. This unauthorized letter was used as the primary exhibit attached to the motion of Sen. Estrada for leave to visit the United States.
After US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) issued a statement disclaiming the alleged USPGG invitation to Sen. Estrada, Mr. Antonio prepared a revised invitation to Sen. Estrada. “This time, however, we are amending the invitation to wit: We are inviting you in our personal capacities, and no longer in our capacities as officers of the Michigan chapter of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG).”
Despite this “clarification” by Mr. Antonio, the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG) respectfully requests the Ombudsman to move the Sandiganbayan to rescind the approval of the motion of Sen. Estrada for leave to visit the United States. There was no invitation from the US Pinoys for Good Governance. The clarification of Mr. Antonio is that it was a personal invitation that came from them, in their individual capacities, as Mr. Willie Dechavez unequivocally stated to me. It was not an invitation from USPGG.
The invitation, therefore, was the fruit that came from a poisonous tree. Sen. Estrada should not benefit from a fraudulent act.
We therefore urge Ombudsman prosecutors to file a motion to revoke the Sandiganbayan’s approval of Sen. Estrada’s motion to travel to the United States.
Yours very truly,
RODEL E. RODIS
LOIDA NICOLAS LEWIS
US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG)