Malacañang wants the Supreme Court (SC) to clarify its ruling granting bail to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte on Saturday said President Benigno Aquino 3rd has ordered government lawyers to study the decision and find out what legal remedies can be taken.
“The President wanted to be clarified really on what it means because bail based on humanitarian grounds is something new,” Valte said in an interview with dzRB radio.
“The President’s reflex every time a Supreme Court decision comes out is to study the text,” she added.
The SC took into consideration Enrile’s advanced age and frail health in allowing the senator to regain temporary freedom.
Enrile, 91, was released on Thursday after posting P1 million bail.
But Valte said the High Court’s decision should be clarified, particularly the parameters of the granting of bail on humanitarian grounds.
“I think that is something that needs to be done to be able to guide the executive also in the future when it comes to implementing the parameters of that bail,” she said.
Enrile, along with Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., is facing plunder and graft charges for allegedly pocketing millions of pesos of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
The senators were accused of conspiring with Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged scam mastermind, in amassing kickbacks from their PDAF that were diverted to her bogus foundations.
Asked if the new ruling would set a precedent for others, Valte said it may be applied in other cases but there will be limitations.
“My understanding of it is that this doctrine should apply to everyone unless the Supreme Court itself limits its application,” she said, explaining that there have been cases that the SC considered sui generis or in a class of their own.
“The assumption is because it has been issued as doctrine, then others are free to use it in their pleadings, in their cases, and to use it also as part of their pleadings in appealing for their clients and that should apply. Because it’s doctrine, that should apply equally across all demographics, regardless of political or social status. That is the assumption unless the Supreme Court clarifies otherwise,” Valte said
Meanwhile, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) slammed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for questioning the SC decision.
UNA secretary general JV Bautista said the Justice chief is sour-graping because the High Court’s rulings granting Enrile’s petition for bail and bill of particulars “exposed the incompetence of de Lima and the weakness of the cases she brought against JPE.”
“Does de Lima want JPE to suffer years of deprivation of liberty when they did not even prepare a worthy information against him?” Bautista asked.
“De Lima once again courts contempt of the SC by lambasting its decision, which is doctrinal and forms jurisprudence, hence, part of the laws. She and the Aquino administration are the causes of our becoming a banana republic, not the SC,” he added.
De Lima maintained that only the Sandiganbayan can determine if the evidence of guilt is strong, thus, it is in a better position to rule on a bail petition.
“The Supreme Court is not a trial court. The bail hearings are ongoing at the Sandiganbayan, so it is only the Sandiganbayan that can determine if the evidence of guilt is strong or not. But now we have the Supreme Court saying that we’re granting bail on humanitarian considerations,” De Lima said.
“I hope majority of the SC, who voted in favor [of Enrile]would realize the ramifications of that ruling. Because the Constitution doesn’t provide for the argument of humanitarian considerations,” she added.
But Bautista lauded the SC.
“UNA welcomes the liberty won by JPE. It shows that the SC can defend us from this administration’s selective justice,” he said.
WITH NEIL A. ALCOBER