Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, his former chief-of-staff Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, and Janet Napoles will spend Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day in detention because their trial for the plunder and graft in connection with the pork barrel scam will start in May next year.
The prosecution and defense panels agreed on Friday that the preliminary conference—the time for marking the evidence, lawyers contesting them, discussions on plea bargaining, manifestation of objections and stipulation of facts—will only be held once a week starting October 16 and will be terminated after 20 meetings or by May 2015.
The agreement transpired after Enrile, Reyes and the other accused in the 15 counts of graft were arraigned at the Sandiganbayan. They were accused of making money out of public funds by channeling Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to the non-government organizations controlled by Napoles in exchange of kickbacks.
The prosecution will submit at least 2,000 pages of documents for the plunder and graft complaints filed against Enrile and his co-accused.
Aside from Enrile, Reyes and Napoles, there are 45 others accused in the graft cases, including officials and personnel of the Department of Budget and Management, state-owned Technology Resource Center, National Development Livelihood Corporation and National Agribusiness Corporation.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires of the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division warned that with the sheer number of accused, the trial will surely be delayed.
“If you consider the number of accused in this case, the preliminary conference will take months. It would be a pity for those who are detained,” Martires pointed out.
Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David admitted that the lawyers of the accused will exhaust all legal remedies to turn the tides to their favor.
“You will have to mark all the evidences. Of course, the lawyers will object to that [markings]. There are so many accused and ergo, so many lawyers. You will have to
expect a lengthy preliminary conference,” David said.
Only Enrile, Reyes and Napoles are detained because plunder is a non-bailable offense.
Enrile, 90, is detained at the Philippine National Police General Hospital on Quezon City, while Reyes and Napoles are being held in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Female Dormitory in Taguig City.