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Enrile bail a picture of ‘injustice, inequality, partiality and preference’ – Ombudsman

/ 07:58 PM September 07, 2015

The Supreme Court has painted a picture of “injustice, inequality, partiality and preference” when it allowed Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail for his temporary liberty, the Office of the Ombudsman said in its motion for reconsideration on Monday.

Enrile is one of the three senators accused of plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam. He went to the Supreme Court after the Sandiganbayan Third Division denied his motion that he be allowed to post bail.

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In his 70-page petition for certiorari filed on Sept. 4, 2014, Enrile said he should be allowed to post bail since the prosecution failed to present strong evidence against him and that the charges “cannot be considered a capital offense.”

At the same time, Enrile said he is not a flight risk, considering that he even voluntarily surrendered to the authorities when the warrant for his arrest was issued by the anti-graft court.

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The high court, in its decision released last month, said the very purpose of bail is to allow an accused to prepare his defense and face trial.

“This national commitment to uphold the fundamental human rights as well as value the worth and dignity of every person has authorized the grant of bail not only to those charged in criminal proceedings but also to extraditees upon a clear and convincing showing that: (1) the detainee will not be a flight risk or a danger to the community and (2) that there exist special, humanitarian and compelling circumstances,” the court decision said.

In this case, the high tribunal said the “fragile state of Enrile’s health presents another compelling justification for his admission to bail.”

“Denying him bail despite imperiling his health and life would not serve the true objective of preventive incarceration during the trial,” the Supreme Court said.

But Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, in a motion for reconsideration filed with the Supreme Court, said such a ruling “confirms to our weary kababayan that a different kind and quality of justice indeed applies to the rich and powerful.”

The Ombudsman pointed out that the high court should have stayed within the bounds of the 1987 Constitution.

Article III Section 13 of the Constitution provides that “all persons except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall before conviction be bailable…”

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The Ombudsman appeal said Enrile’s case, which is plunder, falls under the exception because it is punishable by reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment.

“Since the petitioner is charged with a grave crime, he is, as a general rule, ‘not bailable.’ Necessarily, and by operation of the 1987 Constitution, he cannot be admitted to bail as a matter of right, unless it can be determined that evidence of his guilt is not strong,” the Ombudman’s motion for reconsideration stated.

However, the Ombudsman said the decision has failed to acknowledge such factors and even abandoned its previous rulings where it admonished judges for not following the guidelines it laid down in determining whether to grant bail or not, such as conducting an evidentiary hearing.

“After affirming previous judicial decisions stating that persons accused of ‘not bailable’ offenses can only be provisionally released after a previous factual and judicial determination that evidence of their guilt is not strong, the Honorable Supreme Court proceeded to resolve the petition on grounds completely alien to matters affecting evidence of guilt,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman added that the high court also disregarded the equality clause of the Constitution when it applied a different set of standards in allowing Enrile to post bail.

“With all due respect, the Honorable Supreme Court should have resolved the petition consistent with the constitutional framework on the right to bail that applies equally to each and every other accused Juan and Juana dela Cruz in this jurisdiction.”

The Ombudsman added that Enrile, in his petition, never invoked his age or health which was the high court’s main consideration when it allowed him to post bail.

“In fact, he [Enrile] never filed a petition for bail. His ‘motion to fix bail’ which the Honorable Sandiganbayan dismissed for prematurity was anchored on very different grounds,” the Ombudsman said, adding that Enrile’s health was raised only when the Senator made a bid to be transferred to the Philippine National Police General Hospital.

Also, the Ombudsman added that the “humanitarian consideration” used by the high court can be used by future litigants as a ground for the granting of bail.

The high court, however, failed to provide a guideline.

“The lack of standards for the application of the rule laid down in the Decision makes its doctrinal value uncertain and unpredictable as far as other litigants in the future are concerned.”

“For other accused similarly situated, their pleas would have to be evaluated and resolved on a case-to-case basis. The jurisprudence, as to them would have to evolve first. In the meantime, petitioner [Enrile] has already reaped the benefits. Once again, he has been singled out for the kind of extraordinary, unprecedented and preferential treatment that the Equal Protection Clause guards against,” the Ombudsman added. JE

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Equal Protection Clause, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Plunder, Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF), Sandiganbayan, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Supreme Court
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