The anti-graft court has spoken and the nation will again just have to live with its decision. Like former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, former senator Jinggoy Estrada has obtained temporary liberty, courtesy of the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division.
Bail cost Estrada P1.3 million, which is just a drop in the bucket in the P183.79 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel that he is accused of misusing. Sandiganbayan Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza Arcega, Reynaldo Cruz and Lorifel Lacap Pahimna voted for bail, noting among others that Estrada did not pose any flight risk. Division chairman Rafael Lagos and Justice Zaldy Trespeses dissented.
Estrada will continue to face trial after the court rejected his plea for dismissal of the case. With his release on bail, Bong Revilla is the only former senator left in detention in connection with the scam whose accused mastermind is businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
While the court deliberates on the former senators’ defense that they are not the “main plunderers” in the scandal, the nation continues to wait for the Office of the Ombudsman to file more indictments in court. Napoles’ nephew who blew the whistle on the scam, and whose complaint against her for serious illegal detention sent her to prison, had implicated many other lawmakers in the scam. The Commission on Audit also presented what was described as a “truckload” of evidence, gathered over several years, against nearly 200 former and incumbent lawmakers who allegedly funneled their pork barrel allocations to personal accounts using bogus non-government organizations.
In that long list, only the three senators were arrested and held without bail, and it is significant that all three were leaders of the opposition. Estrada and Revilla had planned to run for higher office in the 2016 race. Those circumstances led to criticisms that the ombudsman was dishing out selective justice. The criticisms persist, and the best way to dispel them is to speed up the preliminary probes and file more cases in court.