Enrile ‘volunteered’ to join Sereno prosecutors – Umali

Bea Cupin
Enrile ‘volunteered’ to join Sereno prosecutors – Umali
'There are no strings to his volunteering his services,' says House justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali

MANILA, Philippines – Veteran lawmaker, lawyer, and former impeachment trial presiding judge Juan Ponce Enrile “volunteered” to join the House of Representatives’ prosecution team in the expected impeachment trial of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali said in an interview with  CNN Philippines  over the weekend that Enrile’s inclusion in the prosecution team “is being contemplated,” pending discussions with House leaders.

“He volunteered and he told us that he is very much willing to share his institutional memory in the prosecution of [Sereno],” said Umali.

Why he’s a huge addition to the House team: Enrile served as Senate president and therefore presiding judge during the impeachment trial of Sereno’s immediate predecessor, the late Renato Corona. (READ: Impeachment, according to Enrile)

His performance then was legendary. Enrile infamously lectured members of the House prosecution team for what was seen as a badly-made complaint.

Enrile is not expected to head the team – this is a role that is usually taken by the committee chairman. But Umali said it’s Enrile’s sharp mind and “institutional memory” that will be his biggest contribution.

“Of course, he’s brilliant in law and prosecution,” said Umali of the nonagenarian.

The House justice committee found probable cause in the Sereno impeachment complaint on March 8 and will vote on the committee report recommending her impeachment on March 14.

What’s the catch? A little over a year after the Corona trial, Enrile was in the spotlight for another reason – the alleged misuse of his pork barrel.

In 2014, Enrile surrendered before police in Camp Crame, and was quickly placed under hospital arrest. In 2015, he was granted bail. He is still out on bail.

“There are no strings to his volunteering his services. He wants to do it for the sake of the nation and for that I really salute him for being a true nationalist and patriot,” said Umali, when asked if Enrile’s participation in the House team has to do with his pending case.

Enrile’s co-accused in the case, Gigi Reyes, has a bail petition pending before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. Reyes was Enrile’s chief-of-staff and supposed longtime girlfriend.

Formidable House team? Talk of Enrile joining the prosecutorial team comes even before the House votes on the justice committee’s report.

Umali earlier said they’re picking 11 lawmakers to be part of the team. Among those who are expected to be automatic members of the team are House and committee leaders.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who was part of the prosecution in the Corona trial, is likely to be part of the team against Sereno almost 6 years later.

Another veteran lawyer, Fariñas infamously admitted that the Corona complaint had been hastily done. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.