Whistle-blowers’ lawyer says house arrest better option
The Supreme Court should have allowed Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to be placed on house arrest if the grounds are due to advanced age and being a nonflight risk, according to lawyer Levito Baligod, a private complainant in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.
“Age and nonflight risk are irrelevant in a bail petition in a capital offense,” Baligod said in reaction to a report that the court’s decision was issued on humanitarian grounds.
“In this way the Supreme Court can extend compassion and at the same time observe the letter and the spirit of the Constitution,” Baligod, a former lawyer of pork barrel scam whistle-blowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas.
“The accused is entitled to bail in a capital offense only when the evidence of guilt is weak, that is the only consideration,” he said.
Raj Mendoza, current lawyer of Luy and Suñas, said: “We are not disheartened by this development and we respect the high court’s decision on the matter. The government prosecutors still have available remedies to convince the court otherwise. We maintain our confidence in our judicial processes and remain faithful that all perpetrators will face justice.”
A group of civil and human rights lawyers assailed the grant of bail to Enrile, calling it a mockery of the country’s justice system.
The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said it was at a loss as to why the likes of Enrile would be granted jail when ordinary jail inmates and prisoners were languishing behind bars for political or petty offenses.
“Our justice system will be hard put to explain to the aging and sick political prisoners, grieving rights victims, ordinary toiling taxpayers, the public at large, and even dirt-poor petty criminals why the likes of rich, powerful and influential demigods like Enrile can walk,” the NUPL secretary general, Edre Olalia, said in a text message.
Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan, said the granting of bail to Enrile “once again affirmed that the Philippines is one of the best havens for criminals, plunderers and human rights violators for their ‘staycation.’”
She likened what happened to Enrile to prominent persons given alleged VIP treatment, such as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan.
Palabay pointed out to human rights activists Miradel Torres, who had just given birth, and 76-year-old Gerardo dela Peña, both of whom continue to languish in jail.
“[We] deplore this clear travesty of justice. Our call is clear: Prosecute and bring to justice the plunderers, free all political prisoners,” she said.–Nancy C. Carvajal with Jerome Aning
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