THE Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) agrees with President Benigno Aquino 3rd that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile should not be committed to the custodial center in Camp Crame or to any ordinary jail for humanitarian reasons.
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said the Sandiganbayan should grant house arrest to Enrile, who is 90 years old.
“At a certain age, old prisoners should be given consideration on humanitarian ground,” Castro said. He noted that the prison ministry believes that old and sickly inmates and detainees should be shown kindness and consideration.
The anti-graft court has yet to decide if there is probable cause against Enrile, who is facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the pork barrel scam. A finding of probable cause will lead to the issuance of a warrant of arrest for the senator.
Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who were also charged with plunder, are detained in Camp Crame.
But Castro believes that if the anti-graft court will also order Enrile’s arrest, the senator should not join Revilla and Estrada.
“If a person is really old, for health reasons, that person should no longer be jailed as this might only cause their death,” the priest said.
He noted that Enrile should be accorded respect because he once was a Senate President and is still an incumbent senator.
Enrile’s camp had said they will likely seek hospital or house arrest for the senator, who is suffering from diabetes, hypertension, extensive coronary artery calcification, lumbar spondylosis and macular degeneration.
The President earlier said the Sandiganbayan should consider Enrile’s age and allow him either hospital or house arrest.
Meanwhile, Malacañang on Saturday the Office of the Ombudsman merely exercised the right to amend the plunder case filed against Senators Revilla and Estrada and their co-accused.
“Under criminal procedure, you can file a motion to amend the information before the arraignment. It is a matter of right. That is why Secretary Leila de Lima is puzzled as to why the Sandiganbayan denied such motions,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a radio interview.
The anti-graft court’s First Division rejected the prosecution’s move to revise the plunder complaint against Revilla. On Friday, government prosecutors withdrew their motion to amend the information filed against Estrada when the court warned that the senator will be released if the complaint is amended.
But Representatives Terry Ridon and Sherwin Tugna said the amendments, while critical, would not doom the prosecution at this point.
“A junked amendment does not bode well for the prosecution, but it could also be a case of having a serious reason as for the amendment. What is crucial is for the prosecutors to be certain of their theory to convict the accused,” Ridon said.
“The denial of the prosecution’s Motion to Amend information does not weaken the case since it is merely a remedial measure filed by the prosecution so that there will be lesser objections during trial proper,” Tugna, the House Deputy Majority Leader, said.
The Palace also called on the public to be patient while the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating allegations that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala were also involved in the pork barrel scam.
“There is a process on how the DOJ evaluate all the affidavits submitted to them. Once an affidavit is submitted to them, it will always be evaluated. There is a vetting process. Even in the past, it also took some time to evaluate the affidavits of Benhur Luy and other whistleblowers,” Lacierda said.
In her affidavit, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles accused Abad and Alcala, among other lawmakers of getting kickbacks for channeling their pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund to Napoles’ fake nongovernment organizations.