The Office of the Ombudsman is bracing itself for the Sandiganbayan’s decision on the second bail plea of former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who has been detained for plunder for more than three years now over the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Sources said the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division has created a Special Division of Five, after the court failed to meet a consensus on Estrada’s omnibus motion for a second bail.
A highly-placed source said Estrada filed the bail petition due to the different composition of the court division.
The source expressed fear that the grant of Estrada’s bail plea would cause a “domino effect” in the related plunder cases involving the other two former senators, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile.
This is the second time Estrada has asked for a bail petition. In 2016, his bail plea was denied by the court citing strong evidence of guilt. Months later, Estrada’s appeal on the denied bail was also thrown out.
READ: Court rejects Jinggoy, Napoles’ bid to reverse denied bail | Sandigan denies Jinggoy bail plea
The source said Estrada’s motion was meant to “circumvent” the court’s prohibition on a second motion for reconsideration.
Estrada’s first bail petition was denied by then Fifth Division Associate Justices Roland Jurado (now retired), Alexander Gesmundo, and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta.
Gesmundo has been appointed to the Supreme Court.
Sources said the justices composing the current Fifth Division – Associate Justice Rafael Lagos as chairman and Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Reynaldo Cruz as members – were split on the issue of granting Estrada’s bail petition.
The Fifth Division thus constituted itself inoto a Special Division of Five to tackle the second bail petition, with additional members Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Lorifel Pahimna.
Lagos, Arcega, Cruz, and Trespeses are appointees of former President Benigno Aquino III. Pahimna was recently appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.
A third source said the vote would be 3-2, but the source did not elaborate on the decision.
Should the bail be resolved in favor of Estrada, the Ombudsman would take it to the Supreme Court, the highly placed source said.
Sought for her reaction, Estrada’s lawyer Alexis Abastillas-Suarez said the camp had not yet received information on a possible favorable decision on Estrada’s second bail plea.
“We have no information about it,” Suarez said.
In his omnibus motion, Estrada said the prosecution failed to prove that he was the “main plunderer” in the alleged scheme, citing the Supreme Court decision that dismissed the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because there was failure to prove the “corpus delicti.”
Estrada said he would not be a flight risk. He added that, assuming the allegation of P183 million kickbacks were correct, the threshold amount of P50 million would not be met because the P183.79 million kickbacks would have to be divided among the four main accused in the case.
This means Estrada’s alleged kickbacks would only amount to P45.9 million, short of the P50 million threshold for plunder, Estrada said.
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