Bong happy for Jinggoy’s looming release
Former Sen. Bong Revilla Jr. has expressed hope that his fellow detainee, former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, would be released on bail soon—validating the fears of highly placed prosecution sources that such a favorable Sandiganbayan ruling would open the floodgates for high-profile defendants.
Revilla told reporters on Monday that he was “speechless but happy” for Estrada, as the Fifth Division was set to resolve his second attempt to be allowed to post bail on the nonbailable offense of plunder.
“It’s sad that Senator Jinggoy is leaving me,” Revilla said, adding in jest that Estrada was already “packing up” his things.
Revilla said his lawyers might “do it, too, if Senator Jinggoy has done a second petition. That’s why I still believe there’s justice in our country.”
Revilla and Estrada’s bail petitions were already denied by the Sandiganbayan First and Fifth Divisions on Dec. 2, 2014, and Jan. 7, 2016, respectively.
Court rules allow litigants to file one motion for reconsideration.
Revilla and Estrada’s appeals were denied on April 15, 2015, and May 11, 2016, respectively, making the earlier decisions final.
Yet Estrada filed on Sept. 12, 2016, an “omnibus motion” to post bail citing insufficiency of evidence and humanitarian grounds.
Reliable sources at the Office of the Ombudsman said the motion was “disguised” to “circumvent” the rules that prohibit a second appeal.
“The grant of the motion for bail after the second [denial] will create a domino effect,” said one highly placed source.
“There was already an assessment the first time around that the evidence is strong,” the source said. “The division might have been different but as to the grounds for bail, the same have been proffered to justify a departure from the original order.”
A second prosecution source argued: “If the motion is granted, the original denial is reversed, ipso facto they misgranted.”
A Sandiganbayan source confirmed the Fifth Division had convened into a special division of five, because the three regular members did not reach a unanimous resolution on the issue.
The court’s Revised Internal Rules require the Presiding Justice to designate two other justices by raffle to resolve the impasse.
The court source identified the two additional magistrates as Associate Justices Zaldy V. Trespeses and Lorifel L. Pahimna, the latter of which was an appointee of President Duterte.
Estrada and Revilla were separately charged in June 2014 for plunder and graft for allegedly pocketing P183.8 million and P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for funneling their Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations to dubious foundations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. They have been detained since.
Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was likewise charged with a P172.8-million plunder case but the Supreme Court, in a controversial August 2015 ruling, allowed him to post bail on humanitarian grounds.
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