Palace fears Gloria Arroyo, others next
The Supreme Court ruling granting bail to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on humanitarian grounds could benefit detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, Malacañang said Saturday.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, a lawyer, said the ruling was “doctrine” and it should be applied “to everyone unless the Supreme Court itself limits its application.”
President Benigno Aquino III wants the ruling “clarified,” Valte said.
“The President’s reflex every time a Supreme Court decision comes out is to study the text,” she said on state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
Mr. Aquino wants clarification because the grant of bail on humanitarian grounds “is new,” Valte added. She described the ruling as “essentially unchartered territory.”
The doctrine, as laid down by the Supreme Court through the ruling, is that bail could be granted for a petitioner on humanitarian grounds, particularly if the petitioner is elderly and ailing.
“Does it mean that when [the petitioner] is released because he is elderly and sick, he cannot work, etc. There are many things that need to be clarified. At the very least, the directive of the President is to study the decision and find out what are the next steps to be taken,” she said.
SC ruling not final
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the government could and should appeal the ruling, as its uncategorical dispositive part gave the state this window to put Enrile back in detention.
De Lima said the Aug. 18 ruling was not final, as it was “subject to the 15-day rule of filing a motion for reconsideration.”
“The People of the Philippines, through the Ombudsman, can and must file a motion for reconsideration,” De Lima told the Inquirer on Saturday when asked about the state’s legal recourse.
“[T]he decision can only be deemed final and executory if no [motion for reconsideration] is filed within 15 days from receipt [of the ruling] or, if one is filed, upon the denial of the [motion],” she said.
De Lima noted several ambiguities in the dispositive portion of the ruling, written by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin and supported by seven other justices on the 15-member court.
“Actually, I don’t understand why the [Supreme Court] decision was immediately implemented through the immediate release of [Enrile],” she said.
“The decision does not say that it is immediately executory, although it says that [Enrile] should be immediately released. Given [the] lack of a categorical statement [in] the dispositive portion that it is immediately executory, the case is or ought to be subject to the 15-day rule of filing of [a motion for reconsideration] before attaining finality,” she said.
Lack of guidance
Citing the dissent of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, De Lima noted “the lack of guidance or standards in the majority ruling as to how to deal with similar petitions for bail.”
In his dissent, Leonen criticized the majority decision as a special treatment for an “unbelievably more fortunate” petitioner compared with other aged and sick detainees, decided on humanitarian grounds that do not even exist in the law.
Leonen said the ruling gave “no guidance to the Sandiganbayan if bail can be canceled motu proprio, or upon motion.”
The decision also lacked guidance on whether the special grant of bail based on ill health “is applicable only to those of advanced age and whether that advanced age is beyond 90 to 91 years old” or only in cases involving plunder, Leonen said.
Accused of graft and plunder over his alleged role in the P10-billion pork barrel scam, Enrile, 91, walked out of hospital detention on Thursday after the Supreme Court released its ruling.
He posted P1.4-million bail at the Sandiganbayan and was released.
On Friday, Enrile visited Revilla and Estrada at the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame to give them words of hope.
Revilla and Estrada are also accused of graft and plunder for allegedly pocketing hundreds of millions of pesos in kickbacks in the pork barrel scam. Both are under 60 and are fighting to be allowed bail.
Arroyo, 68, is suffering from cervical spondylosis and is detained at Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City on plunder charges involving the misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s intelligence funds. The Sandiganbayan has rejected her petition for bail.
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