A “Special Division of Five Justices” was formed after two of the original members of the 5th Division agreed to allow the former senator to post bail. These are Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Reynaldo Cruz. Justice Rafael Lagos issued a dissenting opinion. He thinks that Estrada should stay in prison because of the strong evidence. Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Lorifel Pahimna were added to resolve the matter. Trespeses had cast his vote against former Senator, Jinggoy Estrada. With the vote at 2-2, the “swing vote” belongs to Pahimna. She is an appointee of President Du30 who would cast her vote this week to either grant his provisional freedom or not.
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[VIDEO]: Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada also hopes to enjoy provisional freedom like Enrile.
The three justices are all appointees of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd. Cruz and Arcega are also said to be very close to Aquino’s executive secretary, Paquito Ochoa. Because of the 2-1 voting, Justices Trespeses, and Pahimna were added to the Sandiganbayan Special 5th Division. This is to finally come up with an official ruling to allow Estrada to bail or not.
Justice Trespeses was the senior lawyer and staff of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Justice Pahimna is formerly a judge in Taguig City. She is the latest appointee of President Rodrigo Du30 to the Sandiganbayan. Since the existing votes account to 2 all already, Pahimna’s vote is the determining factor of the fate of the actor turned Senator politician.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang expresses her fear that bail for Estrada might affect the plunder case against former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and aide Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes. It is pending before her 3rd Division. It might also “open the floodgates” for the release of former Senator Bong Revilla. He is also in jail for pork barrel misuse.
Not the Main Plunderer
Estrada’s lawyers argue that the charge sheet failed to allege and identify the senator as the main plunderer. There was no proof that he acquired ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million, they said. That is the threshold amount for plunder. The defense also referred to last year’s Supreme Court ruling that dismissed for lack of evidence the plunder case filed against the former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This is in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds during her presidency. That decision led to Arroyo’s freedom.