MANILA, Philippines – In just a month, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan affirmed its earlier decision that former senator Jinggoy Estrada is entitled to bail for plunder because of lack of evidence that he is the main plunderer.
The court’s Special Fifth Division denied the appeal of the Office of the Ombudsman in a resolution promulgated November 10, and released to media on Thursday, November 16.
The 4-page resolution reiterated that the court was only following the Supreme Court ruling that a main plunderer should be identified.
The court echoed the SC in saying that the main plunderer principle is “not only necessary but also essential to safeguards the rights of all the accused to be properly informed of the charges against them for which they were being made answerable for.”
Ombudsman prosecutors raised in their appeal that hearings should have been conducted anew before the court granted Estrada bail. Nevertheless, they said that the past bail hearings threshed out enough evidence to say Estrada was the main plunderer.
The Sandiganbayan did not agree.
“The court believes that the evidence presented by the prosecution in the bail hearings did not sufficiently establish that the accused was one of the main actors or masterminds in the so-called PDAF scam,” said the court.
In this affirmation, the 3 justices – Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz, and Lorifel Pahimna – concurred. The two dissenters remained dissenters: Fifth Division Chair Rafael Lagos and Zaldy Trespeses. (READ: Ombudsman chief prosecutor downplays politics in Jinggoy’s bail grant)
The 3 justices said that the information filed against Estrada only “implied conspiracy” and did not “expressly state” the conspiracy between Estrada, alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, and others accused.
“For failure of the prosecution to present sufficient evidence to identify the mastermind/main actor of the whole plunder scheme, who had amassed ill-gotten wealth and who principally benefited therefore, the grant of the application for bail is in order,” the court said.