Sereno: Wait, Enrile bail ruling not final
“What I would tell the public is to wait. Because there is still a motion for reconsideration … Wait please,” Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said on Thursday.
After his exceptional release on humanitarian grounds, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile will have to hurdle further court proceedings and fight to remain free.
Sereno was among four magistrates who voted against the bail grant, outvoted by a majority of eight justices who agreed to release Enrile on humanitarian grounds.
Asked whether the Aug. 18 ruling was not yet final, Sereno said: “Yes, because there are pronouncements that have been made … Motions can still be filed.”
With her “no” vote, the Chief Justice backed Associate Justice Marvic Leonen’s dissenting opinion that called the majority opinion “special accommodation.”
“It’s an unqualified concurrence with the dissent. So that’s it … That’s already a complete answer,” Sereno told a panel of select journalists at her third annual “The Chief Justice Meets the Press.”
The Office of the Ombudsman has expressed its intent to appeal the tribunal’s ruling that cited humanitarian grounds for the release of the 91-year-old senator on bail, an 8-4 decision that has been criticized as granting undue favor to a special petitioner.
Enrile has returned to the Senate even while his release was based on his supposedly poor health.
His trial for allegedly taking P173 million in kickbacks along with his former chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, through the pork barrel scam allegedly hatched by Janet Lim-Napoles continues at the Sandiganbayan.
No direct response
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima decried the ruling as a “dangerous precedent,” a special accommodation that could “open the floodgates to similar petitions for bail” for similarly situated detainees.
In his dissent, Leonen said the ruling, penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, had bent the law on granting bail, as humanitarian consideration was not even a ground for such an exception.
Asked in general terms how courts should now interpret the law on bail, Sereno did not give a direct response.
“We have a case that will precisely answer that question and because your carefully crafted question will have to impinge on that case, I can’t answer,” Sereno said at a press conference.
She also declined to answer when asked what she would like to tell the public amid criticism and doubts about the high court’s impartiality because of the ruling.
Controversy has surrounded the high court’s bail ruling, particularly after Bersamin complained about details of the deliberations that Leonen disclosed in protesting the ponencia.
Leonen said in his dissent that the ruling that the magistrates voted on on Aug. 18 was different from the version they signed later that day.
The signed version, per Leonen’s account, cited humanitarian grounds, while the version voted on cited bail as a matter of right for Enrile because of his age and voluntary surrender.
‘Sharp disagreements normal’
Without directly referring to the ongoing conflict among her peers, Sereno said “sharp disagreements” should be expected in a court that brings together “strong-minded” individuals.
“Maybe there is a misimpression on the part of some, that disagreements are to be avoided at all costs. My view is that sharp disagreements are par for the course in our kind of work where you have a collegial body deliberating on a controversial topic of strong-minded individuals,” Sereno said in response to a question that vaguely referred to the Leonen-Bersamin rift.
“As long as these individuals are each one being responsible for his vote, the likelihood of a sharp response is there. It is not something, for my part, to be taken aback by, so I think of it as a part of the normal load of our work,” she said. Tarra Quismundo