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Ahead of arrest, Enrile pleads for liberty

Buena Bernal

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Senator Enrile asks the Sandiganbayan to allow him to post bail in case an arrest warrant is issued against him for plunder charges

NO TO JAIL. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile says he's too sick to be  in jail. File photo by Ayee Macaraig/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Juan “JPE” Ponce Enrile appealed before anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to allow him to post bail in case an arrest warrant is issued by the court over plunder charges filed against him. 

In a 53-page urgent omnibus motion filed Friday, June 13, before the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, Enrile asked the court to set the amount of bail for his plunder case ahead of its judicial determination of probable cause against him.

The 90-year-old statesman said he is not a flight risk, citing his “poor and frail condition requiring constant medical attention.” (READ: At 90, Enrile a bundle of contradictions)

“Bail may be granted even after showing evidence of guilt is strong,” he said, “if the probability of evading prosecution is unlikely.”  

Attached to Enrile’s urgent omnibus motion were medical certificates attesting to his poor health. 

Typically, plunder is non-bailable for being a capital offense or an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua or by life imprisonment.

Two former Philippine presidents were jailed for plunder: ousted President Joseph Estrada, who was granted presidential pardon and is now mayor of Manila; and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest. Mrs Arroyo is an incumbent representative of Pampanga.

‘Questionable’ finding

Enrile is charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing kickbacks totaling to P172 million when he allowed his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to be siphoned off to fake non-governmental organizations. 

The Ombudsman filed the plunder charges against Senators Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada, as well as their aides and alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Napoles on June 6. The cases result from the biggest corruption scandal in the country in recent history.

On Friday, Enrile’s plunder case was raffled to the 3rd division of the anti-graft court which is headed by Sandigan Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang with members Samuel R. Martires and Alex L. Quiroz. 

These justices will now determine if the Ombudsman’s case against Enrile has basis and should be tried in court.

Enrile maintained that the case against him is “replete with generalizations” and “questionable.”

He added that his request to post bail is in “the remote event” the Sandiganbayan affirms the Ombudsman’s findings and issues a warrant.

Enrile also faces 15 counts of graft, which is bailable. For his graft charges, the bail was set at P30,000 per count.

The graft charges were filed Monday, June 9. All cases in relation to the PDAF scam were raffled off to their respective divisions Friday.

Poor health

In a May 8 certification by Dr Clementa Gatmaitan Jr, Enrile is said to be under the care of Dr Claver Ramos of the Makati Medical Center. 

Enrile was diagnosed with chronic hypertension, elevated fasting blood sugar, and mild anemia, among others.

In a separate medical certificate, Dr Ramos said Enrile is on at least 22 different medications for his various health complications.

Another medical certificate signed by Dr Amadeo Veloso Jr of the Asian Eye Institute attests that Enrile has “age-related macular degeneration” on both eyes.

“He needs to undergo regular ophthalmologic check-up, monitoring and treatment for the sight threatening condition. Since 2008, he has been receiving monthly intravitreal injections to maintain and preserve his vision,” the certificate read. 

Position as senator

Enrile also cited as precedent the case of former Senator Justiniano Montano, who was charged with multiple murders but was released on bail. 

Murder is likewise a capital offense.

In Montano’s case however, the Supreme Court (SC) explained that “the sole purpose of confining accused in jail before conviction” is to “assure his presence at trial.”

“The possibility of escape, in this case, bearing in mind the defendant’s official and social standing and his other personal circumstances, seems remote, if not nil,” said the SC. 

Enrile said his position, like Montano’s, should also be considered. Allowing his temporary liberty will also allow him to attend legislative sessions, he added.  

“As such, Enrile should be allowed to post bail at this time, regardless of the evidence against him, in order to likewise continue discharging his duties as a duly-elected senator,” his motion read.

Motion for judicial determination of probable cause

Enrile included among his pleas before the court the judicial determination of probable cause against him.

Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada have already earlier filed their respective motions for judicial determination of probable cause ahead of Enrile.

With their motions filed, the Sandiganbayan is expected to require the Ombudsman to comment on the issues they raised assailing their indictment. 





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