Sandiganbayan allows Jinggoy Estrada to post bail

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 15) — The Sandiganbayan on Friday allowed former Senator Jinggoy Estrada to post P1.3 million in bail despite facing charges of plunder, a non-bailable offense.

The decision was reached through a majority vote of 3-2, with Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz, and Lorifel Lacap Pahimna in favor, and Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Zaldy Trespeses against.

"After a careful evaluation of the matter…the Court finds that the evidence has not strongly established accused Estrada as the main plunderer," the resolution stated.

‪Atty. Alexis Abastillas, Estrada's spokesperson, said they have yet to receive the order.

"Wala pang natatanggap na order. But if ever there is an order granting bail, bukas na magpo-post," Abastillas said.

[Translation: We have not received the order. But if ever there is an order granting bail, we will post bail tomorrow.

Estrada, who is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, allegedly received P183 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as pork barrel or funds a lawmaker can spend for projects.

In November 2013, the Supreme Court declared the PDAF unconstitutional for violating the executive branch's function to disburse funds.

The Ombudsman filed plunder charges against Estrada in June 2014, with the Sandiganbayan ordering his arrest later that month.

The anti-graft court denied Estrada's first petition to post bail in January 2016 after "finding that the prosecution has presented a strong evidence of guilt against him."

The justices of the Fifth Division who ruled in favor of Estrada are not the same justices who denied his earlier petitions.

He filed his second bail petition in September 2016, following a remark by President Rodrigo Duterte that Estrada and former senator Bong Revilla should be granted bail.

The grant of Estrada's bail came after former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who has also been implicated in the so-called pork barrel scam, was allowed by the Supreme Court in August 2015 to post bail for "humanitarian reasons" in light of his age and poor health.

The lawmakers were named by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam that was unearthed by investigative media reports in July 2013.

An estimated P10 billion in government funds were allegedly lost from the scam, with money going into the pockets of Napoles and lawmakers.

No more neighbor

Another former senator, Bong Revilla, who like Estrada is also detained on plunder charges, expressed sadness that Estrada was leaving him behind.

Their detention rooms are beside each other.

"Nalulungkot ako dahil iiwan na ko ni Senator Jinggoy. Medyo nagbabalot-balot na," Revilla told reporters on Thursday after attending a hearing for his plunder trial.

[Translation: I feel sad because Senator Jinggoy will leave me. He's starting to pack his things.]

Revilla believed the court would allow Estrada to post bail.

"Speechless ako, parang siyempre, I'm happy for him [I'm speechless. But I'm happy for him.]," he said.

Revilla, whose pork scam cases are being heard at the Sandiganbayan First Division, has also previously asked for temporary release. This was denied with finality in April 2015.

The actor-turned-senator said he would probably file a second plea for bail.

"I will leave that to my lawyers pero siguro naman gagawin din namin yan tulad kay Senator Jinggoy, a second petition for bail. Kaya naniniwala pa rin naman akong merong hustisya sa bansa, dasal lang," Revilla said.

This is a developing story. Please refresh the page for updates.