Ex-Sandiganbayan chief argues for reversal of Jinggoy bail
MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Chief Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval, a former presiding justice of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, appeared before the court on Monday, October 2, to argue for the reversal of bail grant of plunder defendant Jinggoy Estrada.
The court reset to Friday, October 6, the full-blown oral argument of Sandoval, pending the submission by the defense of its opposition.
But in the motion for reconsideration written by Sandoval, the prosecution said the Sandiganbayan Special 5th Division made a mistake in saying Estrada was not the main plunderer in the case that accuses him of earning P183.793 million in kickbacks from pork barrel projects.
The Sandiganbayan special 5th division granted Estrada bail using the concept of a main plunderer that acquitted former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her own plunder case related to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence fund scam. (READ: After Jinggoy, Napoles and Revilla will now move for bail too)
“It must be pointed out that no less than this Honorable Court had previously found, based on the evidence during the bail hearing, that accused Estrada was at the apex of the PDAF scam,” they said in their motion.
The prosecution cited the 5th Division’s very own resolution. The composition of the division has changed since, and the special division that granted bail to Estrada included two extra members who were necessary to break an impasse. The special division voted 3-2.
“The Honorable Court, taking a cue from the Arroyo doctrine, made a sudden turn-around ratiocinating that there is an ambiguity or even doubt as to who the main plunderer [is] in this case,” the prosecution said.
But the prosecution also sought to remind the court that the plunder law does not “expressly require the prosecution to allege or identify or even prove the so-called main plunderer.”
“Indeed, Section 2 of R.A No. 7080 even recognizes that plunder may be committed collectively, as the phrase ‘in connivance with’ and ‘who participated with’,” the prosecution said.
The prosecution added: “It is grievously wrong for the majority members of the special division to entertain the idea that the elaborate scheme was not accused Estrada’s own doing and that it was accused Napoles’ handiwork.”
Sounding like a lecture to the justices, Sandoval told his former juniors in the court: “Case law teaches that, it is the legislator who exercises actual control and custody of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) share allocated to him or her by the appropriation statute.”
Sandoval added: “It is very elementary that, in conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all.”
The prosecution insists that following the long-followed rule of plunder conspiracy, they were able to present evidence that Estrada indeed colluded with Janet Lim-Napoles to embezzle public funds.
Among the evidence presented so far by the prosecution are bank checks to the account of Juan Ng linked to Estrada, and the testimony of Ruby Tuason that she personally delivered kickbacks to Estrada’s San Juan home.
During Monday's hearing, Sandiganbayan 5th Division Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega told Sandoval it will only be the regular division who will hear his oral arguments.
Regular Division members Arcega and Reynaldo Cruz voted for the bail grant. Division chair Associate Justice Rafael Lagos dissented.
Breaking the impasse was Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap-Pahimna, who was added to the division to abide by the court rules. The other additional member Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses voted against the bail grant.
Sandoval had previously downplayed the role of politics in the bail grant, saying he trusts the justices of the anti-graft court whom he had worked with for 16 years. Sandoval was appointed Chief Special Prosecutor by President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2017. – Rappler.com
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