Dispatch from Crame No. 164: Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s Statement on Sandiganbayan’s decision allowing former senator Jinggoy Estrada to post bail


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The exoneration of plunderers under this administration is almost complete. After the Marcoses, Enrile, Arroyo and now, Estrada, and the impending release of Bong Revilla and Janet Lim Napoles, Congress might as well decriminalize the crime of plunder and repeal the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because they have become useless and worthless under Duterte and his virtual amnesty program for the country’s top plunderers.

What is doubly alarming is that the trademark impunity of the Executive branch under Duterte appears to have found its way into the judiciary, that after a previous bail denial on the ground that the evidence against Estrada is strong, a reconstituted Sandiganbayan Division with Duterte appointees suddenly finds cause to set Estrada free not because they now find the evidence weak, but because the court thinks that Estrada is not a flight risk.

Is the judiciary now introducing new procedure and doctrines just to accommodate the whims of the President?

(As an aside, if that is now the reasoning of the courts, then I should be the very first person to be granted bail, after I even returned to the country from trips abroad knowing that I would be arrested the following month if I come back to the Philippines. When the time of my arrest came, I voluntarily surrendered to the arresting officers. If that is NOT being a flight risk, then I don’t know what is.)

What we have now is an absolute dictatorship, with a President able to dictate on Congress and now, the judiciary, and with a Congress and a judiciary that allow themselves to be dictated upon as such.

We might be going back to the Martial Law judiciary of the 1970s – a time when the subservience of the judiciary was symbolized by the Chief Justice serving as the umbrella-holder of Imelda Marcos – even without Martial Law.

Defense Secretary Lorenzana just said that Duterte might just declare martial law next week. With a Congress and a judiciary like this, Duterte no longer needs to. We are already under a dictatorship, with Congress and the judiciary already under Duterte’s thumb. A martial law proclamation would just be a formality.

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