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MANILA, Philippines – After a year in detention, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile returned to the Senate at 2 pm Monday, August 24.
The 91-year-old senator is facing plunder charges, a typically non-bailable case, but he gained his freedom following a controversial Supreme Court ruling allowing him exemptions.
He was welcomed by a big tarpaulin and a standee prepared by his own and other senator’s staff. “Welcome home sir. We missed you a lot,” the tarpaulin read.
Senate employees bringing flowers and fruits also flocked to his office to give him a warm welcome. Inside the plenary later in the afternoon, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr gave him a hug.
Enrile abstained from voting in two bills before the deliberation on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) began, where he sat through Senator Pia Cayetano’s interpellation.
Enrile is accused of pocketing P172 million from public funds in connection with the alleged multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Voting 8-4, the High Court allowed him to post bail on the grounds that he is not a flight risk and that his health is “fragile.” (READ: #AnimatED: ‘Special’ treatment for Juan Ponce Enrile)
In spite of his “fragile health,” Enrile said he’s ready to return to work.
“I will perform my duty for as long as I have an ounce of energy,” he told reporters.
In a dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Marvic Leonen slammed the majority ruling as a “political accommodation,” amounting to “selective justice” to benefit “one powerful public official at the cost of weakening our legal institutions.”
Enrile refused to comment on the dissenting opinion.
The office of fellow senator Jinggoy Estrada, who remains detained inside the police headquarters for similar charges, sent a standee to welcome Enrile back. “Happy kami sa inyong pagbabalik (We are happy you are back),” it said. – Rappler.com