Should the Supreme Court (SC) revoke Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s bail order?
The supposed “fragile health” of the Senate Minority Leader was far from visible last week as he joined not one, but two controversial Senate hearings that lasted hours.
Citing humanitarian reasons, the highest court in the land allowed Enrile’s petition for bail in August 2015 because of his advanced age and voluntary surrender. Enrile’s counsel also argued that he was not a flight risk and that strong evidence of guilt had not been established to deny bail. (READ: The triumph of Juan Ponce Enrile)
One would thus expect the 91-year-old Enrile – who spent more than a year under hospital arrest – to stay home and rest while he awaits trial for his graft and plunder charges over the pork barrel scandal.
But he didn’t. A few days after his release, Enrile was back in the Senate to, in his words, “perform my duty for as long as I have an ounce of energy.”
Five months later on January 26, Enrile joined the last public committee hearing on the corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay to challenge witnesses alleging that Binay pocketed millions from Makati through “dummies.”
Enrile, a known ally of the Vice President, left after an hour, but not before being told by Senate blue ribbon subcommittee chairman Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III that the committee’s partial report had already established Binay’s links with his alleged bagmen.
Enrile spent an even longer time grilling people in the session hall the next day. The aging senator placed security officials on the spot for two hours on January 27 in an attempt to pin the blame for the bloody Mamasapano clash on President Benigno Aquino III. (READ: Mamasapano: Aquino’s ‘compartmented’ plan, ‘detached’ SAF chief?)
But just like in the Binay probe, Enrile’s questioning did not contribute anything new to the discussion, as his questions had long been asked by other senators in previous hearings.
Talking to reporters after the hearing, Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public order, said in Filipino, “We talked about a lot of things but those were already discussed before. We gave one senator a chance to ask because he wasn’t there when the hearings took place the first time. But if we look and base our decision on the answers today, there’s nothing that can make us change our committee report.”
Cabinet officials, police, and military generals insisted there was no stand down order from the President, even if Enrile claimed Aquino deliberately chose not to save the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.
Questions arose as to why Enrile moved to reopen the probe that forced victims’ families to relive the horrors of the deadly police operation: did he really want justice for the SAF 44, or was he merely out to save a supposed paramour?
Enrile faces plunder and 15 counts of graft over the now-unconstitutional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). He is accused of pocketing P172 million ($3.605 million) in commissions when he allowed P345 million ($7.232 million) of his PDAF to be diverted to fake non-governmental organizations.
Plunder is typically a non-bailable offense, but the SC, voting 8-4, granted Enrile’s bail anyway.
Dissenting justices argued that the High Court’s decision was the “result of obvious political accommodation,” while former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima called the unprecedented ruling “dangerous.”
Two other senators – Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr – are accused of the same crime. – Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com
$1 = P47.71