MANILA (Mabuhay) — The Supreme Court has granted a petition filed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to get a bill of particulars from the Sandiganbayan to enable him to properly plead and prepare for his graft and plunder trial.
In a media briefing, SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te said the high tribunal, sitting en banc, voted 8-5 in favor of Enrile’s petition that was filed August of last year.
“In light of the court action, petitioner Senator Enrile is given the opportunity to confirm or change the plea that the Sandiganbayan entered for him, if he so wishes,” Te said.
Enrile is facing one count of plunder and 15 counts of graft.
In separate information sheets filed by the Ombudsman, Enrile and his co-accused, including his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes, are alleged to have amassed P172.8 million in kickbacks from 2004 to 2010 through non-government organizations associated with alleged pork barrel fund scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles.
In his 79-page petition, Enrile said the Sandiganbayan acted without, or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, when it compelled the lawmaker to plead to the criminal charges without granting his “motion for bill of particulars.”
Under Section 9, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, an accused has the right to move for a “bill of particulars” to enable him or her to properly plead and prepare for the trial.
Through the “bill of particulars,” an accused can ask for details of the case being lodged against him, including particular facts or pieces of information about the case, to ensure that the trial would be fair.
“The denial by Sandiganbayan of petitioner Enrile’s ‘Motion for Bill of Particulars’ compels him to go to trial practically with one eye blindfolded,” read the petition.
Concurring in the decision were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Those dissenting were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama and Marvic Leonen.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes was on leave, while Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza took no part since he was a former Solicitor General.
Among the details of the case that Enrile wanted to know before he was arraigned were:
Names of the specific people who delivered and received the P172,834,500.00 allegedly pocketed by Enrile, as well as the dates and places where they were delivered;
Description of each projects for which Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund would have been used, including who identified the projects, as well as the nature, location and costs of the projects;
Which particular Commission on Audit’s audits and field investigations were conducted to validate findings that Enrile’s PDAFs went to ghost projects;
How did Enrile take undue advantage of his government position to enrich himself at the expense of the Filipino people;
Who amassed or acquired the accumulated amount of P172,834,500.00? Enrile or his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes? When? Where?;
With whom did Enrile conspire? Reyes, alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, Ronald Lim, John Raymund de Asis?
What particular acts constitute the “combination or series of overt criminal acts” that were done to accumulate the amount? What particular acts constitute the “series” and who among the accused committed these acts?
Named respondents in Enrile’s petition were Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, and Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz of the Sandiganbayan Third Division which is handling his plunder and graft cases.
Enrile in October filed a separate petition seeking to nullify the suspension order issued against him by the Sandiganbayan Third Division last July.
Senate President Franklin Drilon implemented the 90-day suspension two months later, on September 1.
The 90-year-old lawmaker, through his lawyers, insisted that he has yet to be convicted of any crime, and stressed that he should be enjoying his “full civil and political rights [being] the most senior member of the Senate, and, perhaps the entire Congress, who is also its Minority Leader, and therefore… an ex officio member of all permanent committees of the Senate.”
He said he would be unable to perform his duties in the Senate if he would remain suspended.
Enrile, who is on hospital arrest at the PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame, said the people who voted for him would “suffer great and irreparable injury, as they will be unfairly silenced in matters of national concern” if he would remain suspended. (MNS)