• Enrile, Napoles plead not guilty to graft

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     Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile sits next to his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes at their arraignment on graft charges at the Sandiganbayan on Friday. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

    Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile sits next to his former chief of staff Gigi Reyes at their arraignment on graft charges at the Sandiganbayan on Friday. PHOTO BY MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

    Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and Janet Lim-Napoles on Friday entered not guilty pleas to all 15 graft charges leveled against them at the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.

    “Not guilty because I have not committed any crime,” Enrile told the court’s Third Division.

    His former aide and co-accused, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, refused to enter a plea so the court entered a not-guilty plea for her.

    Napoles has been widely suspected of having masterminded the multi-million-peso pork barrel racket.

    The arraignment ran for three hours because Third Division Clerk of Court Dennis Pulma had to read each of the 15 charges to the respondents.
    Reyes and Enrile sat beside each other in the lawyers’ dock and were seen chatting during the proceedings.

    The court also entered a not-guilty plea for Alan Javellana on one count, and Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Cacal on six counts of graft.

    The two earlier lost their bids for immunity.

    Also pleading not guilty were former Technology Resource Center head Director General Dennis Cunanan and TRC employees Francisco Figura, Rosalinda Lacsamana and Marivic Jover; National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) employees Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson and Maria Ninez Guañizo; National Livelihood and Development Corp. (NLDC) head Gondelina Amata and employees Chita Jalandoni, Sofia Cruz, Gregoria Buenaventura and Alexis Sevidal; and Ofelia Ordoñez, Filipina Rodriguez, Romulo Relevo, Encarnita Munsod and Consuelo Espiritu.

    TRC, Nabcor and NLDC are the implementing agencies that were the alleged conduits for the projects that were assigned to Napoles’ non-government organizations (NGOs).

    Lawyers for Mylene Encarnacion, Jocelyn Piorato, Eulogio Rodriguez, Evelyn De Leon and Nitz Cabilao were required by the court to show cause within 10 days from receipt of the order why they should not be cited in contempt of court after they failed to appear at the arraignment.

    Eight individuals, including Napoles’ children Jo Christine and James, could not be arraigned because of issues that are yet to be resolved.

    Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare were not arraigned pending appeal of the court’s resolution junking their earlier appeal to the finding of probable cause against them.

    Enrile and his co-accused are charged with graft for allegedly funneling P345 million of his pork barrel to the Napoles NGOs.

    Enrile is also facing a plunder charge for allegedly receiving P172 million in kickbacks for bogus projects.

    He has been ordered suspended by the court over the plunder case.

    Napoles and Reyes are detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penolgy female dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City (Metro Manila).

    On the same day that Enrile was arraigned, the medical staff of the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital in Camp Crame backed the recommendation of a team of doctors from the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to transfer him to a hospital that could better handle his poor health condition.

    Chief Insp. Stanley Sevillano said in a news briefing in Camp Crame that the 90-year-old senator is vulnerable to several life-threatening conditions.

    Sevillano said although Enrile’s health was stable, the senator is vulnerable to a “cardiac arrest and stroke.”

    “Considering his age, his health status is unpredictable,” he added.

    Supt. Maribe Jocson said the senator has “normal blood pressure, (is) conscious and coherent.”

    But Sevillano said the PNP hospital does not have the facilities to handle an emergency that may befall the senator.

    He added that the PNP hospital does not have a CT scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment.

    Sevillano said the PGH team had recommended the National Kidney Transplant Institute or the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City for the senator’s hospital arrest.

    Enrile’s continued stay at the Camp Crame hospital has drawn criticisms of favorable treatment for him, prompting the Sandiganbayan to order the PGH to evaluate his condition.

    The PGH doctors appearedalso on Friday at the Sandiganbayan.

    Enrile has been under hospital arrest since July after he surrendered to authorities in Camp Crame.

    WITH A REPORT FROM ANTHONY VARGAS

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