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Sandigan OKs bail for Jinggoy in ‘pork’ case

A dispositive portion of the 15-page resolution, obtained by The STAR last night, shows that the Sandiganbayan Special Fifth Division voted 3-2 in favor of Estrada’s bid to post bail for his plunder case in connection with his alleged involvement in the pork barrel fund scam. AP/Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines — A special division of the Sandiganbayan has granted the petition for bail of former senator Jinggoy Estrada.

A dispositive portion of the 15-page resolution, obtained by The STAR last night, shows that the Sandiganbayan Special Fifth Division voted 3-2 in favor of Estrada’s bid to post bail for his plunder case in connection with his alleged involvement in the pork barrel fund scam.

But in the same resolution, the court denied “for lack of merit” Estrada’s prayer to dismiss the case.

The court set the bail for Estrada’s plunder case at P1 million. But he is also facing 11 counts of graft in connection with the pork barrel scam. 

The Office of the Ombudsman, who filed the cases in June 2014, earlier recommended P30,000 bail for each count of the graft offense, or a total of P330,000 for the 11 counts.

Those who voted in favor of Estrada’s bail were Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz and Lorifel Pahimna.

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Those who dissented were Fifth Division chairman Associate Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses.

In the dispositive portion of the resolution, the court said Estrada is not a flight risk as he is “former senator of the Philippines and a prominent personality.”

The court also noted that Estrada voluntarily surrendered himself before the court when the cases were filed and that his detention for more than three years now “negates the intention or inclination to evade the legal processes.”

In a phone interview with The STAR, one of Estrada’s lawyers, Alexis Abastillas-Suarez, said the former senator will be posting bail today.

A source from the Sandiganbayan earlier confirmed to The STAR that a special division of five was convened to decide on Estrada’s motion.

The source said the special division was convened after the three regular members of the Fifth Division – Lagos, Mendoza-Arcega and Cruz – failed to reach a unanimous decision on Estrada’s omnibus motion filed on Sept. 12, 2016.

Under the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan, a “unanimous vote of the three justices” is required when granting or deciding on a motion.

If a unanimous decision is not reached, the presiding justice would have to designate two other justices from other divisions to participate in the voting.

The Sandiganbayan source earlier said Trespeses and Pahimna were chosen to participate in the voting. Pahimna is an appointee of President Duterte.

The plunder and graft cases stemmed from Estrada’s alleged amassing of P183 million worth of kickbacks by allocating portions of his Priority Development Assistance Fund, or pork barrel, to bogus foundations allegedly set up by the alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Estrada and Napoles have been in detention since the filing of the cases in June 2014.

Estrada’s petition for bail had earlier been denied with finality by the Fifth Division, but in September last year, his camp filed an Omnibus Motion, which again prayed for bail on the ground of the supposed failure of the prosecution to establish elements of plunder.

Estrada’s camp also argued that the prosecution failed to identify him in the charge sheet as the “main plunderer” in the case.

Estrada argued if the alleged P183 million in kickbacks was to be divided among him and his three co-accused, each share would only amount to P45.9 million, below the P50-million threshold for a crime to be considered as plunder.

The former senator also maintained that he is not a flight risk and his continued detention has already caused “irreparable” loss of his right to liberty.

Erap lauds grant of bail

Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada lauded the Sandiganbayan for granting bail to his son.

“I am very happy with the decision of the Sandiganbayan,” the elder Estrada told The STAR.

The family of the former senator also visited him at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center yesterday after reports surfaced that the Sandigabayan had released a resolution granting him bail, a copy of which they have yet to receive.

The younger Estrada’s wife Precy and their children arrived at the police detention facility shortly before 5 p.m.

Since the Sandiganbayan was already closed, Precy said the family would go to the Sandiganbayan at 9 a.m. today to post bail.

A thanksgiving mass is also reportedly set at the Pinaglabanan Church in San Juan today.

“I’m excited,” said Estrada’s son Julian. –  With Jose Rodel Clapano, Emmanuel Tupas

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