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Enrile allowed to seek demurrer on plunder case

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
Enrile allowed to seek demurrer on plunder case
In a one-page minute resolution dated Sept. 18, the anti-graft court’s Third Division has granted Enrile’s Motion for Leave to File a Demurrer to Evidence.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has allowed former senator and incumbent presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile to seek the dismissal of his plunder case in connection with the pork barrel scam, without presenting his defense.

In a one-page minute resolution dated Sept. 18, the anti-graft court’s Third Division has granted Enrile’s Motion for Leave to File a Demurrer to Evidence.

“Accordingly, accused Enrile, through counsel, is given a non-extendible period of 10 days from notice hereof within which to file his demurrer to evidence, while the prosecution is given a similar non-extendible period of ten days from receipt thereof within which to file its comment and/or opposition,” the Third Division’s resolution read.

The resolution was signed by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and Third Division chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and division members Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Ronald Moreno.

In a text message to The STAR, Tang confirmed that the Third Division has already received Enrile’s demurrer while it is still awaiting the prosecution’s comment or opposition.

A demurrer allows an accused to seek the dismissal of his or her cases without presenting any counter evidence, but solely on the ground of the supposed weakness of evidence presented against him or her by the prosecution.

Gigi’s motion denied

Meanwhile, in a separate minute resolution dated Sept. 19, the Third Division has denied for “lack of merit” the Motion for Leave to File a Demurrer to Evidence of Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.

The Third Division, in its resolution, however clarified that Reyes may still file her demurrer without a leave of court but subject to the legal consequence that “she shall waive her right to present evidence and submit this case for judgement on the bases of the evidence adduced by the prosecution.”

The Third Division set Reyes’ presentation of her evidence on Oct. 17 and 19, and every Tuesday and Thursday thereafter, should she decide to no longer file a demurrer.

Pending since 2014

It was in June 2014 when the Office of the Ombudsman, at the time headed by Conchita Carpio-Morales, filed plunder and 15 counts of graft against Enrile, Reyes and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

The cases stemmed from Enrile’s alleged receipt, through Reyes, of a total of P172.83 million in commissions or kickbacks from Napoles in exchange for the alleged allocation of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to the latter’s bogus non-government organizations from 2004 to 2010.

Napoles is currently detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City following her conviction of plunder in connection with the misuse of P517 million in PDAF of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.

Revilla was acquitted in the case.

Enrile was granted bail by the Supreme Court in 2015 for “humanitarian consideration,” citing his frail health condition and old age.

Reyes, meanwhile, was released from the Taguig City Jail Female Dormitory last January after nearly nine years of detention. This was after the SC granted her petition for writ of habeas corpus. In its resolution, the SC said Reyes’ long detention for a pending plunder case was tantamount to violation of her right to speedy trial and right to liberty.

The trial of Enrile, Reyes and Napoles’ graft cases in connection with the pork barrel scam is ongoing also before the Third Division.

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