March 18, 2018, 10:05 am
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Recall of Jinggoy’s bail sought

THE Sandiganbayan must recall the bail it granted former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada because it had no basis in law and it violated court procedures, according to Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, head of the prosecutorial arm of the Office of the Ombudsman.

Sandoval, a former presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan, said the anti-graft court’s September 15, 2017 resolution that allowed Estrada’s release on a P1.33-million bail bond wrongly applied the pronouncements of the Supreme Court in its July 19, 2016 ruling that ordered the dismissal of the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He noted numerous differences between the Estrada and Arroyo cases that made the ruling in the latter inapplicable.

Sandoval pointed out that in Arroyo’s plunder case, she and her co-defendants were all public officers including top executives of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and two ranking officials of the Commission on Audit. 

In Estrada’s case, the former senator was accused of conspiracy with his staff, executives of a government firm, budget officials, and Janet Lim Napoles, who is a private person.

Sandoval said the SC ruling in the Arroyo case was a review of the denial of her demurrer to evidence while in the Estrada case, the issue was the denial of the defendant’s bail request.

Estrada was charged with plunder for allegedly conspiring with Napoles and other co-accused to siphon off P183 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The grant of bail for Estrada was decided on a   3-2 vote by a special division of five justices after the three justices of the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division failed to reach the required unanimous vote. Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Reynaldo Cruz voted in favor of Estrada’s bail against the lone dissent of Associate Justice Rafael Lagos.

To break the impasse, the Sandiganbayan convened a special division of five justices wherein a simple majority vote would be sufficient to decide the matter. During voting, Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna sided with the majority while Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses voted against the grant of bail.

He also challenged the Sandiganbayan pronouncement that Estrada deserved to be freed on bail because the evidence submitted do not specifically point to him as the “main plunderer.”

He said the information alleged conspiracy between the senator as a public official and the other individuals, including private defendant Napoles.

He said the allegation of conspiracy means it was no longer necessary to point out who is the “main plunderer.”

He likewise clarified that a ruling by one division of the Sandiganbayan is not necessarily applicable to other pending PDAF plunder cases in other divisions.
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