Sandiganbayan's Special Fifth Division said the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution team failed to raise any new arguments that would warrant the reversal of its September 15 ruling granting bail to former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. AP/Aaron Favila, File

Sandiganbayan affirms Jinggoy bail
Elizabeth Marcelo ( - November 16, 2017 - 8:45am

MANILA, Philippines — The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has upheld its ruling allowing former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada to post bail for his plunder case in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam.

In a four-page resolution dated November 10, released to the media Thursday, the court's Special Fifth Division said the Office of the Ombudsman's prosecution team failed to raise any new arguments that would warrant the reversal of its September 15 ruling granting bail to Estrada.

The court maintained that the prosecution's failure to present evidence showing that Estrada is the “main plunderer” in the case is sufficient ground to allow the former senator's provisional liberty from detention.

“In fine, for failure of the 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 therefrom, the grant of the application for bail is in order,” the court's ruling read.

READ: Jinggoy clueless on DOJ's plan to utilize him as DAP witness

Just like in the September 15 resolution, those who voted to uphold Estrada's bail were Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz and Lorifel Pahimna.

Fifth Division chairman Associate Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses maintained their dissent

The court found no merit on the prosecution's argument that identifying the main plunder in the case information sheet is not a prerequisite under Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder Law as long as it was sufficiently alleged that the crime was committed collectively by the respondents in conspiracy with each other.

The Special Fifth Division maintained it has already been judiciously established through a previous Supreme Court decision, that identifying the main plunder in the case “is not only necessary but is also essential to safeguard the rights of all the accused to be properly informed of the charges against them for which they were being made answerable for.”

The Special Fifth Division, again cited the SC's July 2016 ruling on the plunder case of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The case was in connection with the alleged misuse of the P366-million intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

READ: Jinggoy claims Ombudsman investigator to extort from him

In its ruling, the High Tribunal reversed the Sandiganbayan's decision and granted Arroyo's demurrer to evidence which prayed for the dismissal of the case on the ground of the prosecution's failure to identify the main plunderer in. The ruling was upheld by the SC in April this year.

“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,” the anti-graft court said.

Furthermore, the court said the prosecution team, in its charge sheets, even “failed to expressly state the kind of conspiracy between the accused.”

“The Court believes that the evidence presented by the prosecution in the bail hearing did not sufficiently establish that the accused (Estrada) was one of the main actors or mastermind in the so-called PDAF scam,” the court said.

“Since there is no strong evidence identifying the accused as the main plunderer, there can also be no showing of strong evidence against him,” it added.

After more than three years in detention, Estrada was released from the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City on September 16, after posting P1.33 million bail bond for one count of plunder and 11 counts of graft.

READ: Jinggoy leaves PNP Custodial Center

Plunder is a non-bailable offense if proven that the evidence against the accused is strong.

The cases against Estrada stemmed from his alleged amassing of P183-million worth of kickbacks by allocating portions of his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to bogus foundations linked with the alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

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