Aquino says Enrile ‘deserves consideration’ when jailed
MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III said on Tuesday, June 24, that some consideration should be made in the jailing of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile due to his age and medical condition.
“I’m sure the courts will be cognizant of fulfilling the obligations,” Aquino said, but added that “the advanced age of Senator Enrile” should also be a factor.
The President spoke to the press while on a flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima during his one-day working visit to Japan.
Enrile, along with senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr, is facing plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly receiving kickbacks when their discretionary funds were illegally diverted to fake non-governmental organizations. Although both Revilla and Estrada have surrendered to authorities before their arrest warrants could be served, there is still no decision on Enrile’s motion to determine probable cause.
Aquino defended his position by citing the Bill of Rights under the Philippine Constitution.
“Section 19, subsection 1, says a fine shall not be imposed or cruel, degrading, inhuman punishment inflicted. The way I read that, the guy—the senator is 90 years old—the guy is known to have a lot of ailments that has to be… it seems like some consideration must be made,” the President told the press in a mix of English and Filipino.
The President said Enrile’s medical condition is already “established fact.”
Aquino spoke of how he had observed Enrile in the Senate while they were both in office, including the senator’s constant use of a magnifying glass and eyedrops when reading.
No special treatment for other senators
Aquino also denied allowing special treatment for the detained senators. Revilla made headlines earlier after his request for an aircooler in his detention cell.
In response to an open letter written by John Silva, executive director of the Ortigas Foundation Library, the President said there was no comparison between the treatment of Senator Revilla and that of Aquino’s father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr, who was kept in solitary confinement during martial law.
Silva had accused the President of allowing the jailing of senators in comfortable detention cells, much larger than the cell given Aquino’s father who was jailed by the Marcos government.
“Your dad didn’t go to jail for stealing,” Silva told Aquino. “[Your father] was into more heady stuff like a return to democracy, human rights and moral convictions. So why the hell are you treating these senators with kid gloves, these guys who can’t seem to recall, account, or sign off on billions of missing pesos?"
Aquino said that it would be difficult to compare the two situations. Although he described the solitary confinement of the elder Aquino as “mental torture, ” he said the administration is pursuing a “two-fold” process – to hasten the “wheels of justice,” and to provide better facilities.
He explained that the project extended across many correction facilities.
Earlier, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr also responded to the statement, saying that the administration continues “to deal with a criminal justice system that needs to be overhauled and reformed in order to be truly fair and equitable.” – Patricia Evangelista/Rappler.com