FORMER President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could use the recent ruling of the Supreme Court, which allowed Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail on humanitarian grounds, to secure her temporary liberty, Enrile’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza said yesterday.
“It is clearly applicable to former President Arroyo but as to Senator Jinggoy (Estrada), it is different since he does not claim to have an illness nor is he of old age. She (Arroyo) has been detained for so long; she might be permanently incapacitated,”
Mendoza said in an interview after speaking at the regular meeting of the Rotary Club of Manila in Makati City.
Enrile, Estrada and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. are facing plunder and graft cases before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly pocketing millions through the “pork barrel” scam.
Estrada and Revilla remain detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Enrile was released from detention at the PNP General Hospital, also in Camp Crame, Thursday last week, or two days after the ruling.
Arroyo has been under medical detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City since October 2012. She has had surgeries for a spine ailment. She also applied for bail before the Supreme Court after her appeal had been repeatedly denied by the Sandiganbayan on the ground that evidence against her is strong. The high court has yet to rule on her petition in which she said she is entitled to bail considering her health and the fact that she is not a flight risk.
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Mendoza said the 8-4 ruling of the Supreme Court was not “tailor-made” for the 91-year-old Enrile, contrary to the claim of Justice Marvic Leonen who criticized the ruling in his dissenting opinion.
“There is no money or influence involved in this. The problem is that some of those who criticized the ruling might not even have read the SC ruling,” Mendoza said.
He said the right of an accused person to post bail is guaranteed by the Constitution.
“The Constitution provides that all persons who are thus arrested shall be bailable by sufficient sureties or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. The only exception to such right, as provided in the Constitution, is when the person is charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong,” he said.
Mendoza also called on Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to instead focus her department’s resources on speeding up the resolution of cases of thousands of ordinary inmates languishing in jails nationwide, instead of making noises about the SC ruling on his client.
De Lima last week agreed with Leonen that the decision might set a precedent. She said the use of failing health as reason for the grant of bail could be used also by Arroyo.
Mendoza said: “Rather than concentrate on the problem of Senator Enrile and on the SC ruling, she (De Lima) should focus on this and ask her prosecutors to speed up the prosecution of cases of thousands of inmates and to seek their release on recognizance… She should leave the case of the alleged plunderers of the nation’s wealth to the Ombudsman and the courts and instead focus on going after the plunderers of the soul of the nation.”
Mendoza said De Lima should be mindful of data he gathered from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology showing that 88,356 or 96.34 percent of the 91,712 inmates nationwide are still awaiting trial, undergoing trial. or awaiting final judgment.
He said only 2,838 inmates or 3.07 percent are serving sentences.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Leonen’s dissenting opinion has her full support.
“It’s an unqualified concurrence with the dissent,” Sereno told reporters during her 3rd “CJ Meet the Press” event held at a hotel in Manila.
She also said a disagreement between Leonen and Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, who penned the majority decision, is part of the normal process of the tribunal.
She said justices are persons of strong conviction and disagreements happen. She also said it is not part of her duties to reconcile the two magistrates.
Leonen, one of the four magistrates who dissented from the majority ruling, has said Bersamin changed the draft and instead focused on humanitarian grounds to grant Enrile’s bail petition.
Bersamin has denied Leonen’s claim and in turn accused him of “overstepping” his bounds.”
Aside from Leonen and Sereno, the other magistrates who dissented are Antonio Carpio and Estela Perlas Bernabe.
This is an original article of Ashzel Hachero on August 28, 2015, Published in Business Mirror a member of ALC Group of Companies.
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