The Supreme Court has denied the appeal of pork barrel scam architect Janet Napoles to be released from detention on humanitarian grounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez, the SC’s Second Division junked the motion for recognizance and bail or house arrest.
The resolution was promulgated last January 13, 2021 but only released by the tribunal recently.
Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe, then-Associate Justice and now Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, and Justices Amy Lazaro Javier and Ricardo Rosario concurred with the ruling.
In her motion, Napoles told the high court she was at risk of contracting COVID-19 inside the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City because she is allegedly suffering from diabetes.
Napoles also cited what she claimed as compelling reasons to support her acquittal from plunder as well as the international community’s call for temporary release of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) due to the threat of the coronavirus.
In denying her plea, the high court resolved that Napoles’ plea for temporary liberty must be turned down considering that she was found guilty of plunder, a capital offense, in the pork barrel scam case involving Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in 2018.
“The presumption of innocence and the constitutional right to bail end after the accused’s conviction of a capital offense,” the SC resolution stated.
“Accordingly, Napoles’ motion for bail pending the appeal of her conviction must be denied,” it said.
Napoles submitted to the tribunal an unauthenticated medical certificate signed by her physician stating that she has diabetes and hypertension.
However, the high court pointed out that even assuming that Napoles is indeed suffering from diabetes, “that, in itself, is not sufficient to grant her provisional liberty, post-conviction.”
“Napoles’ allegation is a question of fact which is not within the province of this Court to determine. Neither can the Court take judicial notice of her medical condition,” it said.
The SC also said neither the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, nor the global trend to decongest jail facilities due to COVID-19, support the release of PDLs pending the appeal of their conviction of a capital offense.
“Aside from her conviction of plunder which necessarily imports that the evidence of her guilt is strong, Napoles failed to establish that there are exceptional and compelling considerations for her temporary release,” the high tribunal emphasized.
“Be it noted that the constitutional and statutory requisites for the grant of bail are neither suspended nor supplanted by the existence of a pandemic,” it said.