Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile is now a free man, albeit, temporary.  He was granted bail by the Supreme Court in a resolution that was announced early this week.

Legal experts say the SC decision to grant bail was some kind of an act of mercy by the SC. 

Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. said Enrile’s grant of bail was mainly based on humanitarian considerations, given Enrile’s advanced age and voluntary surrender to the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.     

But Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who is a lawyer, has a different take on the matter. 

“This is a seminal and precedent-setting decision on the right to bail given the unique theory used by Sen. Enrile,” Escudero said, adding that others co-accused on the PDAF scam —Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla — could benefit from the decision. The two are still detained at Camp Crame  custodial center.

While former Sen. Nene Pimentel said the two other Senators cannot avail of the remedy used by Enrile in seeking bail, Escudero said otherwise.


Case vs Senators are weak

With the SC decision, it has become clear that the cases against the three Senators are weak and rushed. These complaints had been aired by lawyers of Estrada and Revilla during hearings on their petition for bail. 

Enrile’s return to the Senate session hall was welcomed by most of his colleagues, even his known nemesis, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who admitted that Enrile’s return could be a game-changer in and out of the Senate.

To Sen. Pimentel, Enrile’s return would largely benefit the upper chamber as he is expected to actively participate in legislative work, especially on highly significant matters such as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). 

“There’s a lot he can still contribute, considering his vast experience, sayang naman yung kung just because he is under detention, he cannot participate (in the debates)," Pimentel said. 

His sentiment is shared by many political leaders and observers. 


Senators’ detention has done more harm

The general sentiment is that the continued detention of Senators Estrada and Revilla has done more harm to the political landscape.

The three Senators have the mandate of tens of millions of Filipino voters. They are expected to speak on behalf of Filipinos who voted for them. 

“Their detention meant depriving the voice of tens of millions of Filipinos in the upper chamber,” said Nick Elman, secretary general of Center for Equality in Justice (CEJ).    

Sen. Escudero, however, is hopeful that the tens of millions who voted for the three Senators will soon recover their right for representation in the upper chamber.

“Many other accused can benefit from this decision,” Escudero said, explaining that a number of those in jail are still undergoing trial and are in preventive detention, and yet to be served sentence.


Pimentel says otherwise 

But while Escudero is hopeful the same reason given by the SC to allow Enrile to post bail could apply on Estrada and Revilla, former Sen. Pimentel thinks otherwise.

Pimentel does not see Estrada and Revilla having the same “fate” as Enrile. 

“The circumstances of the two, Senators Estrada and Revilla, differ from Sen. Enrile’s,” Pimentel said, claiming that the grounds cited on Enrile’s bail will not apply to the two other detained Senators.

Pimentel pointed out that the SC decision, however, does not weaken the case against Sen. Enrile pending before the Sandiganbayan Third Division, even as his camp claimed  that the plunder case will practically go back to square one especially as the high court granted his motion for bill of particulars earlier on.


Case may be dismissed 

The grant on Sen. Enrile’s petition to overturn the Sandiganbayan’s earlier decision, denying him of his motion for a bill of particulars, will compel the prosecution to amend the information against him or provide the required details of the charges being hurled at him, one of his lawyers, Joseph Sagandoy, said.   

“Otherwise, the case may be dismissed,” he said. 

The public sees this act by the SC to overturn a Sandiganbayan decision as products of the Ombudsman’s rush to immobilize opposition in the Senate. 

“Important here is the possibility that politics is the first motivation in detaining these three Senators as in the case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” CEJ in a statement said.

The petition to bail has taken more than a year to be resolved, in the case of those accused for plunder. One year and longer for a bail hearing is injustice to the accused. This is worse when the accused is a Senator, whose voice in the upper chamber is the voice of Filipino voters.

If this is a political maneuver, those behind this injustice should be made to answer to the millions who are deprived of their voice in Congress.

That it is political cannot be better said from the latest SC decision. 


Weak evidence, charges are not capital offense

In Enrile’s 70-page petition, he 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.” 

He also pointed out that he is not a ‘flight risk.” He even surrendered to authorities when the warrant for his arrest was issued by the court. 

Enrile’s prayers were heard by the majority of the justices of the SC. 

Now the question raised is should the same arguments not apply on the cases of the two other Senators and former Pres. GMA?

Political observers and some legal minds say the SC decision applied on Sen. Enrile should apply on the other two Senators, as they are detained for the same offense. 


Ombudsman, DOJ reprimanded     

Meanwhile, on hearings for bail by Estrada, the prosecution panel, from the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice had been, time and again, reprimanded by the justices for lack of preparations in their presentation of witnesses and evidence. 

Estrada’s lawyers see a conspiracy to delay the proceedings regarding the his bail petition. But the Sandiganbayan responded by granting Estrada’s request for more hearing days in a week. Previously, Estrada’s case was heard only every Monday morning. 

In between these moves by the lawyers of Estrada and the DOJ and Ombudsman, it is apparent that Estrada, like Enrile, deserves real justice. A true justice that, most important, protects the interest of the millions of Filipinos who voted for him.  

The bottom line in the Enrile case is that the SC has already given the signal to the lower courts that injustice has been done on Enrile, and his petition for bail has been granted. His lawyers said “they are back to square one.” 

That Sen. Enrile is a victim of injustice, and so are Senators Estrada and Revilla, and President Arroyo.  


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