WE join our voice with those of many in welcoming the Supreme Court’s decision last Tuesday to allow Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail and gain provisional liberty in his ongoing case and trial in the Sandiganbayan.
It is indubitably the right thing to do, for humanitarian reasons, for reasons of justice and due process, and for reasons of the public interest.
The humanitarian grounds take first and primary consideration because Senator Enrile is now 91 years of age and is frail of health. It is fitting that he and his family should have these late years of his life to enjoy together.
It is a foolish system of justice that would impose on a nonagenarian the full rigors of a trial which even persons half his age would find life-threatening.
We are gladdened to learn from his defense counsel about his current state of health. He said: “He’s in good health. Of course he will have to take his maintenance medicine and treatment.”
Due process and elementary justice
Secondly, the grant of bail is sound for reasons of due process and elementary justice. The case against the senator has been moving slowly in the graft court, as it has met with innumerable delays and snags. The basic right to due process simply means that an accused can confront and challenge the government’s case against him, that the government must prove alleged misdeeds beyond a reasonable doubt, and that the government must not thwart due process by using extraneous factors to interfere with the trial, such as the demands of a publicity campaign heralding the prosecution and detention of Senator Enrile to show that the Aquino Administration is fighting corruption.
The current practice today of detention prior to conviction is unjust, and should be expunged from our system of justice. It is only the Aquino administration, on the dubious legal opinion of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, that has dared to apply this misguided doctrine.
Our justice system must guard against falling under the sway of legal positivism, which cares only for the pedigree of the law. Under positivism, to quote a noted expert, “the law is whatever those in power say it is, and that whoever controls the government always gets its way.” This is the viewpoint that has produced the current and repugnant policy of selective justice.
It is good that sound legal argumentation by Enrile and his counsel persuaded the High Court to grant his petition. This should set a precedent that will ultimately redound to the good of our justice system.
Serving the public’s interest
Third and finally, the grant of bail and provisional liberty to Senator Enrile, will serve the public interest, because he earnestly intends to return to work in the Senate, where his legal acumen and experience can contribute immensely to the chamber’s deliberations on public policy issues of great meaning and importance.
Not surprisingly, his Senate colleagues have been the most enthusiastic in applauding the Supreme Court’s decision. They are eager for him to lend his counsel and insight to deliberations on the proposed basic law for a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BAR).
Beyond Enrile’s service in the Senate, where he has served also as Senate president, there is his even longer and distinguished service in the executive branch of government. He has served in the sensitive posts of defense secretary, finance undersecretary, and customs commissioner.
Some may assign greater or lesser significance to Enrile’s role in the EDSA people power uprising that spelled the end to the long rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. History is the best judge of both the revolt and the Marcos regime.
For now, this is a time for elation because we are welcoming back into the frontlines of our public life one of the few men and women still living, who truly may be said to have gravitas.
So it is with pleasure that we say: Mr. Senator, welcome back to our public conversation.