File photo by Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay urged government prosecutors to be compassionate and allow house arrest for his ally, detained Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
In a statement issued on Saturday, February 28, Binay said opposing house arrest for the 91-year-old senator was "cold and callous," and opened the government to charges that it treats political opponents harshly.
His lawyers said the senator contracted the illness while detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) general hospital.
Enrile's allies have backed calls for the ailing senator to be allowed house arrest.
"Senator Enrile is 91 years old. He needs medical attention for several ailments and medical conditions that go with his advanced age. His ongoing bout with pneumonia shows the fragility of his physical state. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do," Binay said.
The decision, however, will be up to anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, as Enrile faces a plunder case over allegations he funneled millions of development funds to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks.
Enrile was ordered detained at the PNP hospital, but his lawyers have been requesting house arrest for the senator as early as July 2014, citing the senator's age and previous illnesses.
The Sandiganbayan, however, authorized the PNP to move Enrile to a tertiary hospital when needed.
Up to the courts
In an interview over radio dzRB, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang would leave the issue for the court to decide.
Asked if Malacañang had any objections to the house arrest proposal, Valte said President Benigno Aquino III has not been able to discuss the issue.
She added, "It would be eventually the court that would decide should the side of Senator Enrile move to have him placed under house arrest."
Enrile's co-accused in the pork barrel scam, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr, are currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Meanwhile, Binay also said in his statement that former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is on hospital arrest over plunder charges, should be given the same "compassion."
"She is also of frail health. Her petition for house arrest is being opposed by government prosecutors and her case has barely moved in court," Binay said.
He added: "The fact that the former president is a political opponent should not deprive her of the compassion that should be extended to all detainees similarly situated, regardless of political affiliation." – Rappler.com