MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 5) - Ilocos Sur Representative Ronald Singson is temporarily out of jail after a Hong Kong court allowed him to post bail for his illegal drugs case.
The bail, plus surety bond, amounted to HK$2 million or close to P12 million.
The surety bond was reportedly paid by friends of the Singsons, businessmen Annie Shie and Derrick Wong, who will also take custody of the lawmaker. They each paid HK$500,000 in surety bonds for Singson's release.
This amount is reportedly separate from the bail paid by his father, Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson, amounting to another HK$1 million.
Rep. Singson was arrested upon arrival at the Chek Lap Kok International Airport on July 11, where 26.1 grams of cocaine and two tablets of diazepam were found on him.
After undergoing tests, Hong Kong authorities said the actual weight of pure cocaine was 6.7 grams.
The elder Singson, a former deputy national security adviser of former President Arroyo, said they would be asking the court to downgrade his charges from illegal "drug trafficking" to "possession."
If the charges are downgraded, Rep. Singson faces up to five years imprisonment if found guilty as opposed to up to ten years.
The next hearing for the case will be on September 7.
Although out on bail, Singson was not allowed to leave Hong Kong. He must also report to the police every day.
After the court granted bail, Singson first had to request immigration authorities for his passport. He then surrendered it, including a diplomatic one, to the court before he was released late on Thursday.
Gov. Singson said Shie and Wong are 2 friends with business interests in the Philippines. He described them as "mabubuting tao (good people)."
Marikina Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo flew in from the Philippines to observe proceedings and compile a report for Congress.
"We are here as an observer of the Philippine Congress, knowing full well that it will have some implication on the reputation of the Philippine Congress, at least in the Philippines," Quimbo said, adding that the arrest was a personal matter.
"We expect members of the Philippine Congress to hold lives that are beyond reproach and to be examples in our society," he added.
Ronald Singson's girlfriend, actress Lovi Poe, daughter of the late movie star Fernando Poe Jr., was also present at the hearing.
Plea still being discussed
In an interview with ANC's World Tonight on Thursday, Rep. Singson said his temporary release was just the start of a long process, but he was hopeful since the wheels of justice in Hong Kong run well.
"Ang maganda naman po dito sa Hong Kong ay maganda naman ang takbo ng gulong ng hustisya so kailangan lang natin pong tapusin," he said.
Singson said he cannot discuss the circumstances surrounding his case since whatever he says can be used against him.
Regarding the grant of bail, Singson said his lawyer told the Hong Kong court that he was not a known drug offender. "Sa ibang salita, law-abiding citizen naman tayo prior to this."
Asked about his father's theory that he (Ronald) was set up, Rep. Singson said he had not yet talked to his father about this.
Rep. Singson said he was ready to face any action the House of Representatives might take against him, but he asked the public not to prejudge him.
"Hopefully, ang pinapakiusap ko lang ay sana ngayon, 'wag muna nila akong husgahan dahil, katulad ng sabi ko, nandito pa iyong kaso, on-going pa iyong kaso. Hayaan lang muna sigurong husgahan ako dito. Pagkatapos noong kaso dito, 'tsaka ko na lang haharapin kung ano man ang kailangan kong harapin, at handa naman akong harapin kung ano man ang iniisip nilang nararapat na aking harapin pag dating ko diyan," he said.
Rep. Singson said he had already surrendered his travel documents before the court, which was why he was given temporary freedom.
He said the judicial process might take around 2 months. After the September 7 hearing, Singson said he was told it would still take 4 to 6 weeks.
Singson said he is still discussing with lawyers whether to plead guilty or not.
"Pinag-uusapan pa namin po kung ano iyong plea naming ilalagay, kung guilty or not guilty. And unfortunately, marami pong options na kailangang timbangin," he said.
Singson also denied he got special treatment at the Manila International Airport when he left last month supposedly with illegal drugs.
"Wala po ho akong binaypass na entry. Wala po akong binaypass na security procedure. Wala pong katotohanan iyong napalabas na balitang iyon," he said.
He said he passed through the regular lanes where other passengers also pass through.
Interviewed on the same program, Gov. Singson insisted that his son was set up. "Meron nagplano iyong pagkahuli niya, so it's either kung hindi politics, sa negosyo....Lumalabas na biktima siya." -- with reports from Hong Kong from Henry Omaga Diaz, ABS-CBN News; ANC The World Tonight; Reuters