MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan Third Division will finally start in 2019 the plunder trial of former senator Juan Ponce Enrile for allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from projects funded by his office’s pork barrel.
The anti-graft court’s 3rd division has set it to begin on February 19, 2019.
Enrile’s plunder case has been stuck at the pre-trial level for years because the Supreme Court granted the former senator’s request for a Bill of Particulars, which required the prosecution to specify to the tiniest details its evidence against Enrile.
This has caused years-long worth of pre-trial conferences at the 3rd division. Enrile has been free for more than 3 years because the Supreme Court also granted him bail.
The 94-year-old Enrile is also charged for 15 counts of graft over the scam.
The crucial link to Enrile are two women: his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes and socialite Ruby Tuason. Tuason said she got kickbacks for Enrile from Janet Lim-Napoles, and she coursed them through Reyes.
Reyes also allegedly signed endorsement letters to Napoles NGOs.
Reyes has been detained for 4 years, while Tuason has been turned into a state witness.
In the Bong Revilla plunder case, it was the staff Richard Cambe who was convicted, while Revilla was acquitted. (READ: Gigi Reyes: ‘Nothing worse than betrayal’ by Enrile)
For another plunder defendant, former senator Jinggoy Estrada, the defense is set to start its presentation of evidence after the prosecution rested its case.
Estrada is charged for 11 counts of graft for allegedly receiving P183.793 in kickbacks from his pork barrel, some of which were supposedly personally delivered to his San Juan City home by Tuason.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Sandiganbayan can use as evidence an explosive Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report, which shows Estrada underdeclared his cash assets from 2006 to 2012.
The report also shows Estrada withdrew a total of P76.446 million from 4 bank accounts in September 2013, at the height of the exposé on the pork barrel scandal.
Estrada was also shown to have transferred millions of pesos to accounts under the names Gregorio (P42.849 million), a certain Rolando Francisco (P20.7 million), Juan Ng (P29.904 million), and Reynaldo Pazcoguin (P11.9 million).
Estrada has been free since September 2017 after the special 5th division granted him bail. (READ: ‘I hope to follow suit,’ says Jinggoy Estrada after Revilla acquittal)
An AMLC report was also used against former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, but a majority of 3 justices ruled it as circumstantial.
Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla, who are all enjoying freedom, will run again for Senate in 2019. – Rappler.com