90-year-old Enrile may still spend time in jail

If convicted of plunder, the 90-year-old lawmaker may escape imprisonment due to humanitarian reasons

MANILA, Philippines – Will old age save Senator Juan Ponce Enrile from jail?

If convicted of plunder, the 90-year-old lawmaker may escape imprisonment owing to humanitarian reasons considering his age. But then, Enrile may still serve time in jail while the case is ongoing.

Plunder is a non-bailable offense and “old age or sickness is not grounds for granting bail in a non-bailable case,” according to a veteran lawyer. Enrile is one of 3 senators facing plunder complaints before the Ombudsman in connection with accusations they received fat commissions from alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoes.

To avoid being incarcerated, the best scenario awaiting Enrile is hospital arrest if he is “suffering from serious illness, as in the case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.” Mrs Arroyo is now under hospital arrest at the Veteran’s Memorial  Medical Center, Quezon City, for a plunder charge in connection with the alleged diversion of P300-mllion in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.

Enrile celebrated his 90th birthday on February 14, making him the oldest lawmaker in the country. So far, he has no health issues, admitting in fact during one television interview that he had undergone stem cell treatment. (READ: 10 Things You May Not Know Know About JPE)

“Well, I guess it gave me some energy,” Enrile said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart program hosted by Karen Davila. (READ: At 90, Enrile a bundle of contradictions)

Mitigating circumstance

Under Article 13 of the Revised Penal Code, one of the circumstances which may mitigate criminal liability is when “the offender is under 18 year of age or over 70 years.”

As such, the corresponding jail penalty may be suspended based on the discretion of the court or waived by virtue of executive clemency by the President, according to a Sandiganbayan justice.

The Supreme Court however clarified in a recent ruling that old age is not applicable as a mitigating circumstance if the offender was not yet 70 years of age at the time the crime was committed.

In a 2010 ruling, the tribunal reversed a Sandiganbayan ruling granting the mitigating circumstance of advanced age after it calculated that the offender was only 63 years old at the time of the commission of the crime. As such, “petitioner was not entitled to such mitigating circumstance,” the ruling said.

But in the case of Enrile, if whistleblower Ruby Tuason’s testimony is to be believed, he was already 80 when he and his resigned chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, began misusing his pork barrel in collusion with Napoles in 2004. (READ: The Boss and Gigi Reyes)

Thus, Enrile may cite his advanced age as mitigating factor in case of conviction and his jail penalty could be waived by the court – in this case the Sandiganbayan.

But while the case is pending, Enrile could not cite old age to avoid spending time in jail. So far, there is no jurisprudence that could favor him, according to the veteran lawyer.

“I have not encountered a case where old age was grounds for granting bail in a non-bailable offense. The only grounds for granting bail in a non-bailable offense is if the evidence of guilt is not strong,” he explained.

Jinggoy’s plunder case

This is what happened in the first plunder case against Senator Jinggoy Estrada where he was granted bail and eventually acquitted.

In contrast, his father, former President Joseph Estrada was denied bail and was convicted for plunder. Estrada however did not spend a single minute in jail. He was put under hospital arrest while the case was pending and was granted executive clemency immediately after his conviction.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, in an earlier privilege speech, said that Enrile’s advanced age does not exempt him from criminal liability but “because he is over 70, he can plead the mitigating circumstance of age in order to lower his sentence. Also because of his age, he can apply for executive clemency.”

Enrile, together with Estrada and Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla have been charged with plunder before the Ombudsman for the alleged abuse of their pork barrel allocation in exchange for millions of pesos in rebates from Napoles.

They face suspension from the Senate if indicted and a jail term of 30 years if convicted. – Rappler.com