The Sandiganbayan’s Special Fifth Division has stood pat on its ruling that allowed former Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada to post bail for the plunder complaint he is facing connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
In a resolution promulgated on November 10 but released only recently, the court denied for lack of merit the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration.
“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 benefited therefrom, the grant of the application for bail is in order,” the court said.
“Finally, a careful examination of the instant motion reveals that the issues raised by the prosecution are the very same issues already discussed and passed upon by the Court in the assailed Resolution and finding no new matters that could merit the reconsideration of its previous Resolution, the Court finds no cogent reason to depart from it,” it added.
Defense lawyer Alexis Abastillas-Suarez thanked the court for standing by its decision. “The evidence presented by the prosecution in the bail hearings are not sufficient. There is no strong evidence against Estrada,” he said.
The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division conducted bail hearings beginning in July 2014 after Estrada filed a bail petition. In January 2016, the court denied his bail petition as it cited strong evidence.
This prompted him to file a motion for reconsideration. In May 2016, the court maintained its ruling that denied his bail petition.
In September 2016, Estrada filed an omnibus motion asking the court to, among others, dismiss the plunder case and/or grant him bail in light of the Supreme Court decision that dismissed for lack of evidence the plunder case filed against former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.
Voting 3-2 in a ruling promulgated on September 15, 2017, the Sandiganbayan’s Special Fifth Division allowed him to post bail but denied his plea for case dismissal. He posted bail on September 16, 2017.
Estrada is one of three former senators charged by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the PDAF scam. The two others are Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.
Enrile was allowed by the Supreme Court to post bail on account of his deteriorating health.
Revilla is detained at the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame in Quezon City.