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Enrile, 90, won’t stand ordinary jail – Trillanes

MANILA, Philippines – He may be one of the most rabid critics of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile but Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said he is “not heartless.” 

Trillanes said the 90-year-old Enrile will not be able to stand detention in an ordinary jail if he is arrested for plunder over the pork barrel scam.

A former detainee for rebelling against the Arroyo administration, Trillanes said he is open to giving Enrile special treatment owing to his age.

“I would like to believe Senator Enrile, by virtue of his advanced age, cannot be put in an ordinary detention facility. He is 90 years old. There are special needs of very senior citizens that cannot be provided by an ordinary detention facility,” he said in a press briefing on Wednesday, April 30.

Trillanes said the courts will decide where Enrile should be detained but he said the minority leader will need a detention facility with nursing care that can attend to his medical needs.

“It will be up to the Sandiganbayan but for me, that has to be considered. Our society is not heartless,” he said. “It is so hot in an ordinary jail, especially now in summer. You will sleep with your back wet with sweat.”

In contrast, Enrile’s most bitter rival Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rejected any special treatment for Enrile and his co-accused Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada.

Still, Trillanes said detained senior citizens enjoy special treatment. “The senior citizens really need to be given special treatment because even those convicted are given priority for pardon. What more someone who is just undergoing trial?”

It will be a different case for Revilla and Estrada, with Trillanes saying the two will have a difficulty justifying any special treatment.

“Whatever the decision is – to put them in an ordinary facility or not – I will make sure they will be treated with respect and dignity befitting a nationally elected official of the government,” he said.

Enrile, Estrada and Revilla face plunder charges for allegedly funneling their pork barrel funds to the bogus nongovernmental organizations of scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for millions of pesos in kickbacks.

Trillanes clashed with Enrile during the 15th Congress when he criticized the former Senate President for allegedly railroading the division of Camarines Sur at the behest of former President Gloria Arroyo. Enrile shot back by detailing the backdoor negotiations of Trillanes with China, where he supposedly favored Beijing in its  territorial dispute with Manila.

Fast-track Napoles verification

Following reports about the list of lawmakers Napoles allegedly implicated in the scam, Trillanes called on the justice department to fast-track evaluating her testimony.

“The sooner we can get this issue out, the better, and the sooner we can get Mrs Napoles here in the Senate blue ribbon investigation,” said Trillanes, a member of the committee.

The senator rejected the statement of Napoles’ lawyer Bruce Rivera that she will not face the Senate and only testify in court.

“That will not do for me because this is a political issue. She should convince the public that she deserves to be a state witness. She should tell the whole truth.”

The senator said newspaper reports about the list that came out last week were only “gossip” and raw information. He said what the Senate needed was the signed and evaluated affidavit of Napoles.

‘Prison is reality check’

Even if more senators are being dragged into the controversy, Trillanes said the Senate can move past the issue.

“I still believe the institution is bigger than the individual members. There are newly elected senators who were not implicated. Then, this will be an eye-opener for the public. Makikita nila na ‘di basta-basta pamilyar na pangalan okay na. Kailangan tingnan ang kalooban ng tao, kung may potensyal maging mandarambong o hindi,” he said.

(They will see that just because the names are familiar, we should vote for them. They should look at the character of these people, if they have the potential to be plunderers or not.)

What will the indicted senators experience in jail?

The senator who spent about 7 years behind bars said prison is a reality check. 

Mailalagay ka sa lupa ulit. Pero maraming positive things that will come out of it if you will look at it positively. (You will become grounded again. But there are many positive things that can come out of it.) –