MANILA, Philippines – More than a year after his initial bid to post bail was denied by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, detained senator Juan Ponce Enrile is set to find out whether he will be allowed temporary liberty.
The Supreme Court (SC) en banc is expected to decide Tuesday, August 18, on Enrile's petition to post bail in relation to his plunder case over the pork barrel scam.
Enrile has accused the Sandiganbayan's 3rd Division of "grave abuse of discretion" when it issued the July 2014 resolution denying his motion to fix bail. (READ: Why Enrile's bail efforts were to no avail)
In his petition, Enrile argued that he is not a flight risk, and that the prosecution has not established strong evidence of guilt to deny him bail. He also said the court should consider his advanced age and voluntary surrender.
Plunder is punishable by reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment. But in his case, Enrile argued that if convicted, mitigating circumstances would lower his punishment to reclusion temporal, qualifying him to post bail.
Not a flight risk
In a February 2015 reply to the November 2014 comment filed by prosecutors, Enrile noted that the prosecutors' arguments on why he should not be granted bail centered on two things: that his right to bail is discretionary, not a matter of right; and that his right to bail is determined by the penalty provided by law.
But the senator said that the prosecutors "curiously never refuted, and thus perhaps conceded as true" his argument that because he is not a flight risk, bail may be granted in his case.
"That Enrile is a non-flight risk is an altogether separate ground for the grant of bail. The Supreme Court has, in the past, allowed various defendants, charged with capital offenses, to post bail upon determination that they are not flight risks," his comment read.
He added that in 1990, the SC allowed him to post bail even if he was then charged with a capital offense – rebellion with murder and multiple frustrated murder – considering "that the likelihood of [Enrile] fleeing from or evading the processes of our courts appears fairly remote."
The 91-year-old senator argued that this also applies to his current case, and even more so because he has "considerably aged and physically weakened."
"Again, the prosecutors never even challenged the status of Enrile as a non-flight risk," he reiterated.
Discretionary upon the court
In its November 2014 comment, the prosecution said that bail is discretionary upon the court because Enrile is charged with the crime of plunder, which is punishable by lifetime imprisonment.
"In other words, the accused is still entitled to bail but no longer 'as a matter of right.' Instead, the entitlement is discretionary and calls for a judicial determination that the evidence of guilt is not strong for purposes of granting bail," prosecutors said.
Enrile's camp, however, argued that the punishment of reclusion perpetua will not apply to him even if he is convicted, because two mitigating circumstances could lower his punishment: his advanced age and his voluntary surrender.
But prosecutors asserted that the provision "distinctly refers to the crime charged and not the crime proven."
Enrile cited the plunder law, which considers mitigating circumstances in determining the prescribed penalty and the presence of extenuating circumstances in bail applications.
Enrile and senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr are accused of diverting development funds to fake non-governmental organizations allegedly controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles in exchange for multi-million peso kickbacks. – Rappler.com