Supreme Court of the Philippines

Supreme Court denies humanitarian bail bid of plunder convict Napoles

Lian Buan

NO BAIL. Pandemic bail is denied to plunder convict Janet Lim-Napoles, shown here in this file photo attending her hearing at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

Rappler photo

'Napoles failed to establish that there are exceptional and compelling considerations for her temporary release,' says the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has denied the humanitarian bail bid of plunder convict and pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, saying her conviction for a capital offense has taken away her constitutional right to bail.

Napoles was convicted of plunder in the pork barrel scam case of Senator Bong Revilla, and faced a slew of other plunder and graft charges related to the scam that involved siphoning public funds through ghost projects.

As convicted prisoners and detainees called on the Supreme Court to consider humanitarian grounds in granting bail amid COVID-19 transmissions in jails, Napoles tried to bolster her case by providing a doctor’s certification that she has hypertension and diabetes.

“Napoles’ allegation is a question of fact which is not within the province of this Court to determine. Neither can the Court take judicial notice of her medical condition. However, even assuming that she is indeed suffering from diabetes, that, in itself, is not sufficient to grant her provisional liberty, post-conviction,” the Supreme Court 2nd Division said in its resolution promulgated in January but released only on Wednesday, June 16.

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez, with concurrences from Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe, and Associate Justices Amy Lazaro Javier and Ricardo Rosario.

During the pandemic, the High Court released guidelines to hasten the release of prisoners on trial whose time in jail has exceeded the sentence equivalent to their offense, or whose cases have been shelved because of absence of witnesses.

Napoles tried to use that to her advantage, as well as other Court guidelines for streamlined bail processes for prisoners amid the pandemic.

But in the case of Napoles, the Court said “the presumption of innocence and the constitutional right to bail end after the accused’s conviction of a capital offense.”

“Aside from her conviction of plunder which necessarily imports that the evidence of her guilt is strong, Napoles failed to establish that there are exceptional and compelling considerations for her temporary release. Be it noted, that the constitutional and statutory requisites for the grant of bail are neither suspended nor supplanted by the existence of a pandemic,” the Court said.

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Napoles also tried to invoke the Enrile doctrine, where the Supreme Court granted bail to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile in his own pork scam plunder case. The decision was based on humanitarian considerations but had been slammed as political accommodation, and has since helped Imelda Marcos get post-conviction bail.

The Court said the Enrile case is “exceptional, if not isolated.” The Court said the bail grant to Enrile was to ensure he was fit enough to stand trial. Enrile was 91 at the time of the bail grant in 2015.

“The Court ratiocinated that to deny them bail would not serve the true objective of preventive incarceration during the trial. In contrast, Napoles resorted to this Court and alleged that she is at risk of contracting COVID-19 because she is suffering from diabetes, as shown by an unauthenticated medical certificate signed by her physician,” said the Court.

“To be sure, releasing an accused who has been convicted of a capital offense is not in accord with the Constitution, laws, rules, and circulars,” the Court also said. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.