SC ruling on Satur a bad precedent

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez yesterday said the Supreme Court decision granting bail to Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Saturnino “Satur” Ocampo has sent a wrong signal to lower courts handling cases against critics of the administration.

“The SC decision to release him set the trend… that is a bad trend. We cannot place in jail people who challenge the authority of the state,” Gonzalez said, even as he expressed deep concern that the courts would also allow the release of other jailed critics of the administration.

Gonzalez said that after Ocampo, former Senator Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan, charged with plotting a coup, was allowed bail by Makati City regional trial court last week.

“That is what I am afraid of. That Trillanes and Beltran will be allowed bail and all the efforts that we have done to safeguard the government against destabilizers will have gone for naught,” Gonzalez said, referring to Lt./SG Antonio Trillanes IV and Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran, who were both accused of involvement in the plot to topple President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Gonzalez also said that he was not happy with the way the high court treats Ocampo. “At least the judge in Makati was stricter. He ordered Honasan to post a P200,000 bail for one count of rebellion, but Satur was released on P100,000 bail for 14 counts of murder,” he said.

“Mahal na mahal ng korte si Satur Ocampo [the justices like Satur so much]. If I’m the pope, I’ll make Satur a saint,” Gonzalez said.

Nonetheless, the justice department chief said his agency has not ruled out the possibility of asking the Makati regional trial court. “We’re studying that [appealing the Makati court bail ruling] and again we might be charged by some people that we are harassing him [Honasan],” he said.

Gonzalez expressed doubts whether the bail granted to Honasan would be revoked. “I would think that a motion for reconsideration [on the bail grant] will not be successful.”