Dissenting Sandigan justices question use of Arroyo SC decision on Jinggoy's bail plea

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2017 05:11 PM | Updated as of Sep 17 2017 10:45 PM

Former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada waves after leaving his detention cell at Camp Crame, Quezon City. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- Two magistrates of the Sandiganbayan Special 5th Division questioned the use of the Supreme Court decision on the acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the case of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. 

Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Zaldy Trespeces, who dissented on the bail grant for Estrada, argued that the High Court's decision on the Arroyo case cannot be applied on Estrada's.

The two justices were outvoted by 3 others- Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz and Lorifel Pahimna - in granting Estrada's motion for bail. 

The court released its decision Friday.

Estrada was released Saturday after posting a P1.33-million bail while on trial for graft and plunder charges over his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso "pork barrel" scam. 

The former senator made the assurance that he would "religiously" attend hearings at the anti-graft court for his plunder case.

Lagos, who chairs the 5th Division, said in his dissenting opinion that the former senator was not accused as a "mastermind," unlike in the 2016 SC decision on Arroyo's bail plea, which noted that the former President was accused as a "mastermind" in her plunder case.

"A reading of the Court's Resolution denying bail to accused Estrada does not show clearly that accused Estrada was the mastermind based on the evidence presented," Lagos said.

Arroyo's plunder case stemmed from allegations that she conspired with Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials in misusing P366 million in intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010. 

"In fact, the Court categorically clarified that in discussing the essential need for the identification of the main plunderer, it was not harping on the sufficiency of the information, but was only enabling itself to search for and to find the relevant proof that unequivocably showed petitioner Arroyo as the "mastermind" - which was how the Sandiganbayan has characterized her participation in the context of implied conspiracy alleged in the information," the SC had said, as quoted by Lagos.

But in his case, Estrada was accused as a co-conspirator along with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, her relative John Raymond De Asis, and Estrada's former staff Pauline Labayen. 

For Trespaces, Estrada is the "main plunderer." 

"In the final analysis, it was Estrada's endorsements that set into motion the subject transactions which, using Napoles' schemes/facilities, resulted in amassing ill-gotten wealth for his benefit. Estrada, by himself and/or through Labayen, is clearly the hub, who communicated to the "spokes", identified in the Information to be Napoles and de Asis," Trespeces said.

Trespeces also took note of the issue of "main plunderer" as an "allegedly new requirement for proving plunder" as stated in the SC decision. He also noted he was not against revisiting the bail issue per se.

"However, if the Court is disposed to allow the accused to seek bail afresh based on the allegedly new requirement for proving plunder following the Arroyo ruling, it should likewise allow the prosecution new bail hearing/s to show evidence to satisfy the new requirement for proving plunder," Trespeces said.