Sandigan affirms ruling granting Jinggoy bail
The Sandiganbayan has upheld its decision allowing former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada to post bail on his P183.8-million plunder case.
In a four-page resolution dated Nov. 10, the court’s Special Fifth Division denied an appeal by the Ombudsman and said it was “duty-bound” to apply in Estrada’s case the Supreme Court’s July 2016 decision acquitting former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder.
The Arroyo ruling was the first to impose an additional requirement for prosecutors to pinpoint a “main plunderer” in a plunder case.
“The Arroyo case is a judicial decision by the highest court interpreting the plunder law and this court is duty-bound to follow and apply the Supreme Court’s ruling in the said case,” read the resolution, released to the Inquirer on Thursday.
“For failure of prosecution to present sufficient evidence to identify the mastermind/main actor of the whole plunder scheme, who had amassed ill-gotten wealth and who principally benefitted [sic] therefrom, the grant of the application for bail is in order,” it added.
The court also ruled that the charge sheet did not “expressly state the kind of conspiracy” between Estrada and his coaccused.
It reiterated that the identification of the main plunderer “is also essential to safeguard the rights of all the accused to be properly informed of the charges against them.”
Estrada’s lawyer Alexis Abastillas-Suarez said they were “thankful that the Court stands by its decision that the evidence presented by the prosecution in the bail hearings are not sufficient and that there is no strong evidence against Estrada.”
The Sandiganbayan maintained that the evidence “did not sufficiently establish that Estrada was one of the main actors or masterminds” in the pork barrel scam, which saw the diversion of several legislators’ funds to a network of dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) linked to Janet Lim-Napoles.
Just like the Sept. 15 resolution that led to Estrada’s release, the Nov. 10 resolution was also reached with a split vote.
Associate Justices Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega, Reynaldo P. Cruz and Lorifel L. Pahimna concurred in the ruling, while Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos and Zaldy V. Trespeses maintained their dissent.
Special prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, a former Sandiganbayan presiding justice, said on Sept. 19 that the precedent set by the court in Estrada’s case would “adversely affect” pending plunder cases.—VINCE F. NONATO
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