MANILA (Mabuhay) – For the second time, the Sandiganbayan has deferred the pretrial of the plunder case of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile as well as his co-accused Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes and Janet Lim-Napoles in connection with their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
At the scheduled pretrial proceedings on Friday, Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who heads the Third Division, announced that “the court resolves to grant” Enrile’s motion to cancel the pretrial filed last week.
The Third Division sided with Enrile’s argument that the trial of his case must not proceed yet pending the Supreme Court’s final resolution on his motion for bill of particulars.
In a ruling last month, the SC granted the motion for bill of particulars filed by Enrile last year and directed the Office of the Ombudsman to provide additional details on the plunder case that the senator has sought in his motion.
The Office of the Ombudsman, however, filed last week a motion for reconsideration, asking the high court to reverse its ruling.
“Masaya kami at in-expect naman talaga namin na igra-grant ‘yung aming motion [to cancel pretrial] dahil ‘yun ang logical consequence because of the decision ng Supreme Court, na kailangang ibigay ng prosecution ‘yung mga specific detail [ng case] na hinihingi namin,” Enrile’s lawyer, Joseph Sagandoy, told reporters after the cancelled proceedings.
“Ang position namin is we cannot proceed with the trial kung wala ang mga detail na ‘yun,” he added.
Among the details that Enrile wanted to be included in the information of the case were the names of the specific people who delivered and received the P172.8-million alleged kickbacks that he allegedly amassed from the pork barrel scam, as well as the dates and places where the kickbacks were supposedly delivered.
Enrile also wanted the Ombudsman to specify the names of the individuals with whom he allegedly conspired.
The Third Division, meanwhile, has denied Enrile’s motion to cancel pre-trial filed by the camp of Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff.
In her motion, Reyes, through her lawyer Anacleto Diaz, said the pretrial of her case must also not proceed pending the resolution of Enrile’s motion for bill of particulars.
Diaz argued that since Reyes is a co-accused of Enrile, the supposed vagueness of the case information as pointed out by the senator in his motion before the SC, also directly affects the case of his client.
Napoles’ lawyer, Stephen David, expressed the same view.
“Your honor, one of the elements of plunder is conspiracy. The act of one is the act of all. If the acts allegedly committed are vague how can we proceed with the trial?” David asked.
Third Division senior member Associate Justice Samuel Martires, however, pointed out that the camps of Reyes and Napoles did not file any motion for bill of particulars for more than a year since the case has been filed against them, thus “there is an assumption that you understand the information of the case.”
“You have slept on your rights [to file the motion]. One year has lapsed,” Martires said.
But while Diaz and David eventually agreed to proceed with the pretrial of the cases of their respective client, state prosecutor Edwin Gomez admitted that the prosecution panel has not yet submitted its pretrial brief before the court.
A pretrial brief is a pre-prequisite before the conduct of the pretrial proceedings. It must contain the list of documentary evidence and witnesses each camp aims to present during the trial proper of the case.
During the pretrial proceedings, the court is set rule on the admissibility of the briefing papers that each camp has submitted.
Gomez’ admission made Tang and Martires furious and prompted them to impose a fine of P1,000 against the prosecution panel.
“Attorney David has filed a pretrial brief for his client. It is understandable that Attorney Sagandoy and Attorney Diaz did not file their pretrial brief because they are moving for the cancellation of today’s proceedings. But the prosecution has no reason not to submit their own pretrial brief,” Tang said.
“We cannot understand why the prosecution did not file its pretrial brief. The court has been very lenient, the fine should have been P10,000,” Martires said.
For the prosecution’s failure to file its pretrial brief, court has reset the pretrial proceedings of Reyes and Napoles’ cases on October 27 at 8:30 am.
The pretrial proceedings signal the start of the trial proper of a case.
During the pretrial proceedings, the prosecution and the defense panels are expected submit to the court the list of evidence and witnesses they intend to present during the trial proper.
Based on the rules of procedure, only the evidence and witnesses included in the “pretrial order list” will be allowed to be presented to the court during the trial proper.
Enrile, through Reyes, is accused of amassing P172 million worth of kickbacks by supposedly allocating his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to the fake foundations allegedly owned by Napoles, the alleged brains behind the scam.
Reyes is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Female Dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City while Napoles is detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.
Enrile, meanwhile, is on a provisional liberty after he was allowed last month by the Supreme Court to post for humanitarian considerations.
In a short interview before the start of the cancelled pretrial, Enrile said he is prepared to face the cases against him whatever will be the decision of the SC.
“It’s like throwing a fish in the sea. Well if you’re a fish you can swim in the oceans. I’ve been trained as a lawyer, a trial lawyer, an all around lawyer. I’m not half-baked lawyer,” Enrile, a veteran lawmaker, said. (MNS)