Now that the Sandiganbayan has granted provisional liberty to former senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, the court should also allow former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Gigi Reyes to post bail, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said on Saturday.
Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff, was also charged with plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam. She was accused by the Ombudsman of receiving kickbacks in behalf of Enrile.
Enrile was released from the Philippine National Police custodial center in August 2015 after the Supreme Court allowed him to post bail for health reasons.
“Tutal, p’wede naman silang litisin habang nasa labas sila. Nagdusa na sila ng tatlong taon nga eh. Hindi naman tatakas ang mga ‘yan. (They can be tried in court while enjoying temporary freedom. They already suffered for three years. They will not escape),” Enrile said. “Life in detention is difficult. There’s uncertainty. You cannot quantify your time, your future. It’s indescribable.”
“Kaya sana ‘yang si Presidente Noynoy (Aquino) hindi n’ya matikman ‘yung ginawa niya sa amin (I just hope President Benigno Aquino will not suffer what he did to us,)” he added.
But the release of Estrada did not sit well with Sen. Leila de Lima, who is also detained at the PNP custodial center on drug charges.
De Lima bewailed that with Estrada’s grant of temporary freedom, the exoneration of plunderers under the Duterte administration is “almost complete.”
“After the Marcoses, (Juan Ponce) Enrile, (Gloria Macapagal) Arroyo and now, Estrada, and the impending release of (former Sen. Ramon) Bong Revilla and Janet Lim Napoles, Congress might as well decriminalize the crime of plunder and repeal the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because they have become useless and worthless under Duterte and his virtual amnesty program for the country’s top plunderers,” she fumed.
Enrile, Revilla, Napoles, and Estrada were jailed when de Lima was the justice secretary.
“What is doubly alarming is that the trademark impunity of the Executive branch under Duterte appears to have found its way into the judiciary,” de Lima said.
She deplored that “a reconstituted Sandiganbayan division with Duterte appointees” found cause to set Estrada free “not because they now find the evidence weak, but because the court thinks that Estrada is not a flight risk.”
“Is the judiciary now introducing new procedure and doctrines just to accommodate the whims of the President?” she asked.
“If that is now the reasoning of the courts, then I should be the very first person to be granted bail, after I even returned to the country from trips abroad knowing that I would be arrested the following month if I come back to the Philippines. When the time of my arrest came, I voluntarily surrendered to the arresting officers. If that is not being a flight risk, then I don’t know what is,” she added.