The Supreme Court (SC) has granted a petition of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to be allowed to post bail and be granted temporary liberty while facing plunder and graft cases in connection with his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Enrile, 91, filed the petition for certiorari in September last year, citing his advanced age and voluntary surrender to the Sandiganbayan.
Aside from Enrile, two other senators–Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.–are facing graft and plunder for allegedly misusing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or infamously known as pork barrel.
Enrile is currently on hospital arrest at the Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Panopio in Quezon City while Estrada and Revilla are detained at the PNP Custodial Center at the adjacent Camp Crame.
The announcement of the High Court’s decision on Tuesday affirmed an earlier story of The Manila Times.
The SC voted 8-4 on Enrile’s petition during its regular en banc session on Tuesday. Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin wrote the ruling.
The two most senior and two most junior justices — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic Leonen — cast the dissenting vote.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited from the case since he handled the case when he was the Solicitor General while Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who is on medical leave, did not vote anymore.
Justice Martin Villarama left his vote in favor of Enrile’s petition since he is on “wellness leave”.
The ruling grants the senior lawmaker the right to post bail as the court grants his “provisional release” upon posting of a cash bond.
“The court granted the petition for bail of petitioner Juan Ponce Enrile, subject to the terms and conditions to be specified by the court in its order which will be forthcoming,” according to SC Public Information Office chief Theodore Te.
The Times source, however, said the High Court has ordered the issuance of the Writ of Certiorari Annulling and Setting Aside the Resolutions issued by the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, in Case No. SB-14-CRM-0238 on July 14, 2014 and August 8, 2014; Orders the Provisional Release of petitioner Juan Ponce Enrollee in Case No. SB-14-CRM-0238 upon posting of a cash bond of P1-million.
Also, it has “ordered the immediate release of petitioner [Enrile] from custody unless he is being detained for some other lawful purpose.”
The source said the original recommendation of Bersamin was a cash bond of P500,000 but was increased on Tuesday to P1 million.
The SC source said that the ruling cited that the frail health of Enrile, his old age at 91, the findings of the government doctor and his stature and long years public service has convinced the justices to grant his bail petition.
It was noted that the Sandiganbayan has committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied Enrile’s plea to allow him to post bail.
“Accordingly, we conclude that the Sandiganbayan arbitrarily ignored the objective of bail to ensure the appearance of the accused during the trial; and unwarrantedly disregarded the clear showing of the fragile health and advanced age of Enrile. As such, the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in denying Enrile’s Motion to Fix Bail,” the source said as he read out the ruling.
“The court hereby extends the application of these conditions to this case if only to address the compelling situation of Enrile’s advanced age and fragile health. The risk of flight or escape from this jurisdiction is highly unlikely in light of his current medical condition, his social and political standing and his having voluntarily surrendered to the authorities upon his being charged in court,” the source pointed out.
WITH REINA TOLENTINO