Sandiganbayan junks new Enrile bid for bail
MANILA, Philippines–The high-caliber legal team of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has suffered yet another setback after the Sandiganbayan threw out for lack of merit his motion to set the amount of his bail.
But in a separate ruling, the antigraft court’s Third Division allowed Enrile to stay at the Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Crame, Quezon City, pending the completion of his medical exams to be conducted by government doctors.
Enrile’s lawyers, including former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, had filed a petition for bail, which the court promptly dismissed for being premature.
In a resolution dated July 14 but released to the media only on Thursday, the Sandiganbayan said it was baseless and premature for Enrile to ask the court to determine the amount of his bail as government prosecutors had yet to present evidence proving his guilt for plunder in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel racket.
Discretion of the court
Enrile’s petition to fix bail, which his lawyers filed on July 7, was part of his legal team’s strategy to secure the provisional liberty of the 90-year-old lawmaker, who has been detained at the PNP hospital since his surrender on July 4.
In junking Enrile’s motion, the court said that in cases that imposed reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment as punishment, such as plunder, the application for bail was not considered a right of the accused, but a discretion of the court.
“This discretion, by the very nature of things, may be exercised only after the evidence is submitted to the court at the hearing … (I)t is obvious that a proper exercise of judicial discretion requires that the evidence of guilt be submitted to the court,” the court ruled.
In the case of Enrile, it said posting bail “is not a matter of right, but is discretionary upon the court.”
“To enable the court to properly exercise this discretion, evidence of guilt must be presented to it…. During the bail hearing, the prosecution shall be accorded the opportunity to present all the evidence it may deem necessary for this purpose,” it said.
The Third Division, chaired by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, said “it is only after the prosecution shall have presented its evidence and the court shall have made a determination that the evidence of guilt is not strong against accused Enrile can he demand bail as matter of right.
“Then and only then will the court be duty-bound to fix the amount of his bail,” the division said.
“To be sure, no such determination has been made by the court. In fact, accused Enrile has not filed an application for bail. Necessarily, no bail hearing can even commence. It is thus exceedingly premature for accused Enrile to ask the court to fix his bail,” it said.
Citing the Constitution, the antigraft court further said granting or denying bail in capital offenses “hinge[s] on the issue of whether or not the evidence of guilt of the accused is strong.”
Determining the weight of evidence against Enrile would require conducting court hearings to allow both government prosecutors and defense lawyers to present their own evidence, it said.
“(I)t is premature for the court to fix the amount of bail without an anterior showing that the evidence of guilt against accused Enrile is not strong. Wherefore, premises considered, accused Juan Ponce Enrile’s motion to fix bail … is denied for lack of merit,” the court ruled.
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