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People of the Philippines v. Sandiganbayan and Jinggoy Estrada, G.R. No. 158754, 10 August 2007.

17 May

En Banc

[GARCIA, J.]

FACTS: This petition seeks to reverse and set aside the Resolution of herein respondent Sandiganbayan (Special Division) issued on March 6, 2003 in Criminal Case No. 26558, granting bail to private respondent Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada (hereafter Jinggoy for brevity). Jinggoy was among the respondents in the crime of Plunder filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Jinggoy filed with the Court an Urgent Motion praying for early resolution of his Petition for Bail on Medical/Humanitarian Considerations. He reiterated his earlier plea for bail filed with the Sandiganbayan. Jinggoy filed before the Sandiganbayan an Omnibus Application for Bail against which the prosecution filed its comment and opposition. Bail hearings were then conducted, followed by the submission by the parties of their respective memoranda.  Petitioner suggests that Jinggoy is harboring a plan to escape, thus a flight risk. But in a Resolution, the Sandiganbayan granted Jinggoy’s Omnibus Application for Bail. Petitioner filed a Motion for Reconsideration but was denied.

ISSUE: Is the grant of bail in favor of Jinggoy proper on the ground that he is no longer considered a flight risk?

HELD: YES, the grant of bail is proper.

To begin with, Section 13 of Article III (Bill of Rights) of the Constitution mandates:

Section 13. All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law. xxx.

Even if the capital offense charged is bailable owing to the weakness of the evidence of guilt, the right to bail may justifiably still be denied if the probability of escape is great. Here, ever since the promulgation of the assailed Resolutions a little more than four (4) years ago, Jinggoy does not, as determined by Sandiganbayan, seem to be a flight risk. We quote with approval what the graft court wrote in this regard:

It is not open to serious doubt that the movant [Jinggoy] has, in general, been consistently respectful of the Court and its processes. He has not ominously shown, by word or by deed, that he is of such a flight risk that would necessitate his continued incarceration. Bearing in mind his conduct, social standing and his other personal circumstances, the possibility of his escape in this case seems remote if not nil.

The likelihood of escape on the part individual respondent is now almost nil, given his election on May 10, 2004, as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines. The Court takes stock of the fact that those who usually jump bail are shadowy characters mindless of their reputation in the eyes of the people for as long as they can flee from the retribution of justice. On the other hand, those with a reputation and a respectable name to protect and preserve are very unlikely to jump bail. The Court, to be sure, cannot accept any suggestion that someone who has a popular mandate to serve as Senator is harboring any plan to give up his Senate seat in exchange for becoming a fugitive from justice.

 

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