Jinggoy Estrada presses Sandiganbayan anew for bail
MANILA, Philippines–Please release me, let me go.
Detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has asked the Sandiganbayan yet again to set the amount of his bail, claiming the prosecution had failed to present strong evidence to warrant his continued detention.
In his reply to the prosecution’s opposition to his motion, Estrada reminded the Ombudsman prosecutors that he should still be presumed innocent since his indictment for plunder and graft charges “should not be equated to conviction.”
Five months after the antigraft court’s Fifth Division started the bail hearing, he claimed the prosecution had yet to provide enough evidence supporting its allegations.
The senator said the prosecution presented “thoughtless and rash conclusions” in opposing his request for the court to determine the amount of his bail.
“Contrary to the prosecution’s assertion, what triggered the filing of the motion is the weakness of the prosecution’s evidence, hence the continuous deprivation of [my] constitutional rights,” Estrada said in his seven-page motion dated Jan. 5.
He claimed even the testimony of primary whistle-blower Benhur Luy failed to prove that that he directly benefited from the purported misuse of P278 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations from 2004 to 2010. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. are also detained on similar plunder charges.
“The prosecution must be mindful that unless and until Senator Estrada, or any accused for that matter, is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence remains,” read a portion of his motion.
“To support the prosecution’s contention, the proof against him must survive the test of reason. [T]he strongest suspicion must not be permitted to sway judgment,” it added.
Estrada also reiterated that he did not have any plans of leaving the country to avoid trial of his cases, saying his “official and social standing and other personal circumstances eliminate the risk of flight.”
Not flight risk
“Even assuming that the prosecution is able to show that the evidence against him is strong, he is nonetheless entitled to bail because he is demonstrably not a flight risk,” the senator stressed.
“The theory is that if the evidence of guilt is ‘strong,’ the risk of flight increases. However, the theory does not hold in the case of Senator Estrada,” he said.
Since he was not a flight risk, Estrada said his being locked up at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center “becomes a penalty rather than a mode of ensuring his presence at trial.”
Turning the tables on the prosecution, the senator denied that his motion was only aimed at delaying the resolution of his bail petition and argued that the prosecution’s insistence on presenting at least 27 witnesses in his bail hearing violated his right to speedy trial.
No benefit in delay
“What benefit would Senator Estrada get by delaying the hearings? Definitely none. In fact, as a detained accused, the longer the bail proceedings continue, the more prejudiced his situation becomes,” he said.
In opposing Estrada’s attempt to secure his temporary freedom, the prosecutors said “this bizarre proposition… which essentially seeks to pre-terminate and improperly abbreviate the ongoing bail hearing, has absolutely no merit.”
“Estrada knows for a fact that the incriminatory evidence against him is already snowballing even at this early stage of the bail hearing, and things can only get worse from here, and so, like any person caught in a trap, his only recourse is to forestall the inevitable for as long as he could,” the prosecution argued.
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