Special prosecutor says he trusts there’s no politics in Estrada’s bail
A former Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice now the Ombudsman’s special prosecutor on Tuesday said he has faith in the Sandiganbayan not to be influenced by politics in the grant of bail of former senator Jinggoy Estrada.
In a press conference at the Office of the Ombudsman, Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval also said he trusted the anti-graft magistrates of the other divisions not to make a “sweeping application” of the main plunderer doctrine, introduced in the Supreme Court decision that acquitted former president Gloria Arroyo, and used by the anti-graft court in granting Estrada’s bail plea.
“I have trust and confidence in Sandigan and Supreme Court that they will not have a sweeping application of the main plunderer,” Sandoval said.
He also downplayed speculations that politics somehow influenced the decision of the justices.
“I still trust that the Sandiganbayan cannot be controlled by politics. I was there for 16 years. Chismis lang ‘yung may mga pulitikong nakialam,” said Sandoval, who served at the Sandiganbayan for 16 years and at one point was Presiding Justice.
President Duterte had criticized the Ombudsman for its selective justice in pursuing cases against the opposition. But he begged off from commenting about Estrada’s release.
Sandoval said in his years as Sandiganbayan justice, “this is the first time that the Supreme Court said this is an element of plunder.”
He said should the other divisions of the Sandiganbayan stick with this same doctrine, then the Ombudsman prosecutors would have to make adjustments in the filing of cases.
“This is the first time I heard that to be a valid indictment, the main plunderer must be identified. This is a very new ruling. But if the court would stick to this, and it would become final, we have to adjust the filing of cases, Sandoval said.
He said the Arroyo doctrine cannot be applied in Estrada’s case, because the first one deals with alleged “raid of the treasury” and involves public officials, while Estrada’s plunder case involves alleged misuse of pork barrel funds and involves private individuals conspiring with public officers.
He said the pending cases may be “adversely affected,” but he said he does not “fear any sweeping application” of the Arroyo doctrine.
Sandoval said while accused mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles seems to be the main plunderer, not Estrada, the former senator still conspired with the mastermind in committing the alleged pork barrel racket.
“It has been reechoed in the jungle of criminal jurisprudence, that in the case of conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all,” Sandoval said.
He also belied Estrada’s allegation that the plunder information would fall short of the P50 million threshold, because the over-all alleged P183 million kickbacks would have to be divided among all the accused.
“No, there is no divide divide, because they are charged in conspiracy. So the act of one is the act of all. If one amassed P50 million, it’s presumed that they amassed the entire amount,” Sandoval said.
As to Napoles’ claim that she could not become the main plunderer because she is a private individual, Sandoval said she could still be the main plunderer because she conspired with the public official.
“If somebody is also charged in conspiracy with you, that somebody is liable. And he can be classified a public officer for purposes of convicting,” the retired anti-graft justice said.
Sandoval expressed hope the anti-graft court would reverse the grant of bail, taking off from the dissenting opinion of Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses that the prosecution should first be given an opportunity to present new evidence in a bail hearing.
Sandoval said the prosecution shoud have been allowed to present new evidence in another bail hearing, especially because Estrada is appealing the denial of his bail petition by the previous composition of the Fifth Division.
“You know, what Justice Trespeses opined is brilliant. They should have conducted, because ruling on the same circumstances, the same facts, which have been passed upon and brilliantly reasoned out by the former justices comprising the division,” Sandoval said.
In Trespeses’ dissenting opinion, the justice said there is strong evidence against Estrada, who was called the “hub” in the wheel of conspiracy, and whose actions of endorsing the bogus foundations that implemented the ghost Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) projects “set into motion” the amassing of ill-gotten wealth.
“The dissenting opinion of Justice Trespeses is quite enlightening. He said the senator is the main plunderer. He is the hub of the transaction. in other words, his endorsement of his PDAF projects set into motion, and through the schemes or facilities of Napoles, they were able to amass at least P50 million,” Sandoval said. /je
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