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Justice Leonen scores majority for granting Enrile bail

A Supreme Court associate justice has scored his colleagues who voted in favor of allowing Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail in the graft and plunder charges he is facing in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam.

In his dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen called the decision a "special accommodation" that "casts serious doubts on the Court's neutrality and objectivity."

He also questioned the legal basis of the eight justices who voted to allow Enrile to post a P1
million bail at the Sandiganbayan Third Division for his temporary freedom.

The eight justices were Lucas Bersamin who wrote the decision, Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdadp Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.

In its decision, the SC relied on the testimony of Dr. Jose Gonzalez of the Philippine General
Hospital, who testified before the Sandiganbayan Third Division that Enrile's at least 22 ailments are life-threatening.

The decision also added that it is within the discretion of the court to grant bail on humanitarian reasons.

"The currently fragile state of Enrile's health presents another compelling justification for his admission to bail, but which the Sandiganbagan did not recognize," it said.

But Leonen pointed out that Enrile's alleged frail health is a question of fact that at least required trial at the Sandiganbayan.

"Nowhere in the rules of procedure do we allow the grant of bail based on judicial notice of a
doctor's certification," he said, adding that such decision opens the high court to criticisms of partiality.

"That we make factual determinations ourselves to grant provisional liberty to one who is obviously politically privileged without the benefit of the presentation of evidence…casts serious doubts on our neutrality and objectivity," Leonen said.

Leonen said the SC decision may also have an effect on other litigants who are similarly situated as Enrile.

"[The decision] puts presssure on all trial courts and the Sandiganbayan that will predictably be deluged with motions to fix bail on the basis of humanitarian considerations," he said.

But a more scathing remark came towards the end of Leonen's dissenting opinion where said the decision smacked of inequality.

"Special privileges may be granted only under clear, transparent and reasoned circumstances," he said. "Otherwise, we accept that there are just some among us who are elite. Otherwise, we concede that there are those among us who are powerful and networked to enjoy privileges not shared by all."

Leonen further alleged that the ponencia of the decision, Bersamin, did not contain the original points raised, debated and voted upon by the justices on the morning of August 18.

Leonen is joined in his dissenting opinion by three magistrates, namely Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

When asked if Justice Bersamin has a reaction to Leonen's dissent, Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said he had none.

"Justices don't do that," Te said in a text message.

Enrile's counsel, Atty. Eleazar Reyes, meanwhile dismissed Leonen's opinion as "irrelevant" because the majority had already ruled on their petition. —KBK/ELR, GMA News