POSTSCRIPT / August 23, 2015 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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If JPE deserves bail, more so does GMA

THE PROVISIONAL release last Thursday of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile after a year of detention on plunder and graft charges raises the question of when former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, also accused of plunder, would be freed from “hospital arrest”.

Comparing their cases, we see more cogent reasons for the court to allow the release on bail of Arroyo, now serving as representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga despite the curtailment of her normal functioning as legislator.

Enrile, 91, set to go back to the Senate as minority leader, is accused of plunder and graft for allegedly pocketing P173 million from pork barrel funds diverted to shady non-government organizations linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

The remaining plunder charge against Arroyo, 68, is simpler. It arose from her marginal note on a routine document allowing the release of P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Her marginal OK was ministerial, needed to start the fund release process without necessarily pre-approving how the money was to be used. There was no showing that she stole even just a peso from the fund.

Co-accused with Enrile is his former Senate chief of staff, Napoles and others who are still detained. Co-accused with Arroyo are former PCSO officers and board members who are now out on bail.

Since Arroyo and the rest of her alleged co-conspirators are supposed to be equally guilty or not guilty of plunder, how come they are all out on bail while she is not?

GMA presumed innocent; evidence weak

THE PONENCIA in the Supreme Court order for Enrile’s release cited humanitarian reasons, his not being a flight risk, the absence of overwhelming evidence of guilt, and his suffering from a number ailments (none of which was described as life-threatening).

On the other hand, Arroyo is certified by government doctors to be suffering from cervical spondylosis, a degenerative disease of the bones and cartilage of the neck, requiring her to wear a neck brace. Choking or a snap of her frail neck could kill her anytime.

She has progressively lost weight in her three years of detention. Doctors have repeatedly declared that “despite continuous therapy, she continues to suffer from the medical effects of her three spine surgeries, the third one lasting over eight hours”.

They recommend a more holistic approach in her treatment — including family support, emotional stability, and spiritual upliftment — which she cannot have while confined in a hospital over an extended period.

Her lawyers applied last April to revise her custodial arrangement from hospital to house arrest, but recently upgraded the petition for bail for medical and humanitarian reasons and the obvious fact that the ailing congresswoman is not a flight risk.

One wonders at what point her constituents in Pampanga could justifiably complain of undue curtailment of their proper representation because of their elected representative’s restricted public contact and the ban on her use of such basic tools as computers and cellphones.

After all, Arroyo is still presumed innocent. With her deteriorating medical condition, the weak evidence (her ministerial marginal OK) and with all her alleged co-conspirators already out on bail, common sense alone argues for also granting her bail.

The Supreme Court itself has said that the purpose of detention at this stage of a case is not punitive — she is still presumed innocent — but simply for the courts to be assured that the accused will be available anytime to appear to answer the charges.

Erap fits into various 2016 combinations

AN ERAP ESTRADA-Grace Poe tandem for the 2016 presidential elections has been floated. That would be a formidable combination, but I doubt if it would be allowed to materialize despite the fact that Estrada is still a political force to contend with.

What I know is that former president and now Manila Mayor Estrada will run for president only if both his chum Vice President Jojo Binay and his inaanak Grace are out of the race, and the opposition needs a standard bearer to continue the fight.

Estrada’s body language tells me that if invited, separately, by Binay and Poe as his/her running mate, he would be more inclined to the latter, daughter of his bosom friend action star Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ).

And, watch this, if both Binay and Poe are knocked out or are fatally damaged and the mayor decides to stick to his option of running for reelection, he would not mind forging a modus vivendi with Mar Roxas, the Liberal Party presidential bet.

With LP optimism dimming for Roxas’ getting Poe as running mate, the party has turned its attention to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party with the hope that that move might pull in former Sen. Manuel Villar, NP big boss, nearer the LP circle.

Why does not the supposedly mighty LP just look inward and harvest its own big trees? Or have lack of party leadership and petty intramurals started to sap the party’s vitality?

If the Liberals do not watch out, they might even end up with Roxas sliding down again for a sure-win Poe-Roxas teamup for 2016. No kidding!

Wife of ‘Business Mirror’ news editor dies

MA. CECILIA “Cecille” Perez Poblete Pelayo died last Thursday, Aug. 21, after a lingering illness. She was 60.

Cecille is survived by her husband Nonnie; children JoAnne and Ricky Robledo and Leo and Agnes Pelayo; and grandchildren Patricia and Dennis Pelayo and Veronica, Ethan and Hannah Robledo. Nonnie is the news editor ofBusiness Mirror and treasurer of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI).

Her remains lie at the St. Peter’s Memorial Chapels on Quezon Ave., Quezon City. Cremation will be at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 23, 2015)

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