2019 sees almost a year’s delay in Enrile plunder trial

Lian Buan
2019 sees almost a year’s delay in Enrile plunder trial
From an original schedule of February, the first day was moved all the way to October. It has been reset again.

MANILA, Philippines – The year 2019 is winding down but the most-awaited pork barrel scam plunder trial of Juan Ponce Enrile is yet to begin as his lawyer Estelito Mendoza again successfully scored a reset on Wednesday, October 16.

Mendoza, a Marcos-time solicitor general and veteran plunder lawyer, filed a motion to reset the day before, on Tuesday, October 15, and it was granted without objection by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan 3rd Division.

The court set new hearings on November 26 and 27 to resolve issues raised by Mendoza – issues that have been recurring since 2015 when his pre-trial was scuttled by a grant of a Bill of Particulars from the Supreme Court (SC)

The first day of trial, after years of the pre-trial proceedings, was originally scheduled for February 19 this year, but the developments indicate that the earliest it could start would be December, or 10 months’ worth of delay.

Enrile is accused of allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from projects funded by his office’s pork barrel.

Bill of Particulars

The trial was reset because there is no pre-trial order (PTO) yet. It also turned out there is also no joint stipulation of facts (JSF) yet, or a document where both the Enrile camp and Ombudsman prosecutors agree on the facts and issues, which will be tackled during trial.

In August 2015, Mendoza was able to win for Enrile a Bill of Particulars grant from the SC, which basically required the prosecution to state the charges against the former senator with as much specificity as it could.

This had allowed Mendoza to file all sorts of pleadings since then – and he’s still continuing to use this now with success to delay the trial.

On Wednesday, Mendoza tried to argue before the court that prosecutors can only present evidence that are stated in the Bill of Particulars.

“There is no avoiding this, it is not only a precedent, but it is binding on this court,” Mendoza said during the hearing.

Prosecutor Arieta Say said: “Nothing in the SC decision says that the evidence is limited to the Bill of Particulars. To force us to litigate only on that would be tantamount to limiting our duties.”

Third Division chair, Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang seemed to put her foot down on the issue and said: “The Bill of Particulars was simply meant to provide details that are unclear in the information, it was not meant to limit the evidence that could be presented by the prosecution.”

Wanting to expedite the proceedings, Tang compelled both the prosecution and Mendoza to stipulate on the spot two things: the identity of Enrile, and that he was a senator during the period material to the case.

Enrile was granted bail also by the Supreme Court in the generally non-bailable case of plunder because of humanitarian considerations.

His former chief-of-staff and co-accused, Gigi Reyes, has been in jail since 2014. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.