‘Accountability or impunity?’: FEU’s Dean Sta. Maria talks about Supreme Court’s controversial cases

By on August 20, 2016

Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, broadcaster and Dean of FEU School of Law. (Twitter photo)
Atty. Mel Sta. Maria, broadcaster and Dean of FEU Institute of Law. (Twitter photo)

MANILA—Accountability or impunity?

These were the questions left hanging on Friday by Dean Mel Sta. Maria of the Far Eastern University (FEU) Institute of Law as he said that “proof beyond reasonable doubt is not exacting absolute certainty but moral certainty”.

During the “Uncovering the Courts: Media Training on Monitoring the Judiciary” held at the Dela Salle University in Manila, Sta. Maria cited several controversial cases decided upon by the Supreme Court (SC).

He noted that the plunder case of former president and incumbent Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.

The plunder case was in connection with the alleged involvement of the former president in the misuse of PHP366 million confidential intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

In the plunder case of then senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Sta. Maria noted that the Sandiganbayan issued an order allowing Enrile to remain at the hospital for medical examination until further orders of the court.

The plunder case was in connection with the alleged “kickbacks” that ran into millions of pesos received by Enrile from Janet Lim Napoles.

Napoles is the alleged “brains” behind the PHP10 billion pork barrel and the PHP900 million Malampaya Fund scams.

Sta. Maria said that the Sandiganbayan denied Enrile’s motion to fix bail for being premature, stating that, “It is only after the prosecution shall have presented its evidence and the Court shall have made a determination of probable cause.”

This prompted Enrile to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the SC.

In the dispositive portion of the SC ruling, it said that, “With his solid reputation in both his public and his private lives, his long years of public service and history’s judgment of him being at stake, he should be granted bail. The current fragile state of Enrile’s health presents another compelling justification for his admission to bail.”

Sta. Maria said that this was only for the bail petition of Enrile.

The plunder case against him remains pending before the Sandiganbayan, he added.

He also explained the “condonation doctrine” or the Aguinaldo doctrine, which was invoked by former Makati City mayor Junjun Binay when he asked the Court of Appeals to stop the preventive suspension order imposed on him by the Office of the Ombudsman over the alleged overpricing of the Makati Parking building.

The condonation doctrine refers to an official’s reelection to office which serves as a condonation to his previous misconduct to the extent of cutting off the right to remove him from office.

”Get reelected and you will be absolved from your wrongdoing from your previous term,” Sta. Maria noted.

He further cited the conviction in the plunder case of former president and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, where he was granted “absolute pardon”.

However, there were conditions set in the grant of the absolute pardon that were not fulfilled, Sta. Maria said.