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SC grants Enrile’s petition to post bail

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 18, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has granted the petition for bail of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is facing plunder and other charges before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.

“The court granted the petition… subject to the terms and conditions to be specified by the court in its order which will be forthcoming,” SC spokesman Theodore Te announced in a press conference yesterday.

Te did not release details of the SC ruling, but an insider said eight justices voted in favor of Enrile’s petition, four inhibited and three did not participate in the voting.

The high tribunal required the senator to post a P1-million bond, the insider added.

The source, a member of the high court, said the SC ruling also ordered Enrile’s immediate release from custody unless he is being detained for some other lawful purpose.

The source said a majority of the justices cited “humanitarian reasons” in granting bail to the 91-year-old senator who is on hospital arrest at the Philippine National Police General Hospital (PNPGH) at Camp Crame.

Last week, the SC also granted the petition of Enrile for the prosecution to produce evidence in the plunder case he is facing as it reversed the ruling of the Sandiganbayan last year denying his motion for a bill of particulars.

Represented by lawyer Estelito Mendoza, Enrile asked the high court last September to grant him bail after it was rejected by the Third Division of the anti-graft court.

Enrile argued that the charges against him cannot be considered a capital offense, citing the supposed failure of the prosecution to prove that he could be punished with life imprisonment if found guilty.

Enrile also cited his advanced age and earlier voluntary surrender in urging the high tribunal to allow him to post bail. He said he is no longer a flight risk, adding that the prosecutors have no strong evidence against him.

Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who chairs the anti-graft court’s Third Division, said they would abide by the SC ruling, adding it is up to the ombudsman to file a motion for reconsideration. 

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group director Chief Supt. Victor Deona said they would release Enrile as soon as they receive the order from the Sandiganbayan.

“If we receive the court order, we will not hold him anymore,” he said.

Upon receipt of the release order, Deona said doctors at the PNPGH would conduct a medical checkup to ensure that Enrile is in good health.

Noted

 “We note the resolution of the Supreme Court, which granted the bail petition of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.

Coloma said the government is determined to sustain its anti-corruption campaign. “This steadfast commitment is not dependent on the outcome of any particular case,” he said.

“We shall leave it up to the Office of the Ombudsman, as an independent and separate body of the government, to undertake the necessary action with regards to the High Court’s decision,” Coloma added.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte welcomed the SC decision, saying Enrile is an “asset to the Senate.”

Belmonte said he had visited Enrile at Camp Crame three times and spent a couple of hours talking during his visits.

He said he was not sure if the SC ruling would weaken the case against the other lawmakers.

Eager to see JPE

Sens. Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. who are detained at Camp Crame for pork related-plunder charges, expressed hope they would see Enrile before he is discharged from the PNPGH.

“Sen. Bong Revilla and I are very happy for JPE. Justice has been served for JPE. We commend the SC ruling. We are still very hopeful that we will follow soon so we can report back to work,” Estrada said in a statement.

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said Enrile’s return would liven up Senate plenary debates.

“I am looking forward to working with the youngest member of the Senate,” Recto said in jest. 

“With our agenda full, hard labor awaits him here. With his experience, he can certainly enrich the discussions on the budget and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL),” he added.

Recto noted that Enrile’s temporary liberty came on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2, “which he fought and serves as a testament to the man’s resilience and staying power.” 

Sen. Francis Escudero lauded the SC’s move, describing it as a “seminal precedent-setting decision on the right to bail given the unique theory used by Sen. Enrile.”

“Many other accused can benefit from this decision. I congratulate him on his legal victory and look forward to working with him again in the Senate,” Escudero said.

Minority leader

Sen. Vicente Sotto III said Enrile should join their ranks again as the minority leader.

Sotto said Enrile could provide valuable inputs during the debates on the proposed BBL and the P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said he expects the minority bloc to become more active with Enrile back at the helm.

With Enrile and Estrada in detention due to their involvement in the pork barrel scam, the minority bloc was left with just Sotto, Ejercito, Nancy Binay and Gregorio Honasan.

Back on track

Ejercito said Enrile would help bring the minority back on track as “fiscalizers,” which they have not been able to do much in the past year.

“It would boost the minority if Sen. Enrile would be permitted to resume his responsibilities as a senator, especially in the scrutiny of the 2016 national budget and for plenary debates on the substituted Basic Bangsamoro Law next week,” he said. 

Binay said she was looking forward to working with Enrile again as the most senior member of the Senate, particularly in “fiscalizing the administration.” 

Senate to abide by SC ruling

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate would honor the orders of the SC, but said he has not received the ruling. 

“If he is granted bail then he can come to the Senate. He has never abandoned work. Anyway, he continued to perform the functions of a senator with the exception of attendance of sessions, which he could not do,” Drilon said.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said he expects Enrile to immediately get down to work once he returns to the Senate.

“I’m sure, knowing him and from what my colleagues have said, he was still studying and reading a lot while in detention. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d be back very soon here in the Senate, buckle down to work because he’s the type of person to do that,” Angara said.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, who had differences with Enrile, said he respects the decision of the high tribunal. – With Christina Mendez, Michael Punongbayan, Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero

ACIRC CAMP CRAME COURT ENRILE JUAN PONCE ENRILE NBSP RULING SANDIGANBAYAN SEN SENATE STRONG
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