Senator Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday refused to enter a plea to the plunder charge he faces before the Sandiganbayan.
Enrile, 90, declined to enter a plea after the court’s Third Division denied his request to examine documents that the prosecution said will show that he unlawfully received P172 million as kickbacks and commissions in the pork barrel scam.
“I enter no plea and my counsel will explain why,” he told the anti-graft court.
Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza is representing Enrile in the case.
Mendoza noted that Enrile cannot enter a plea because he is questioning the court’s decision finding probable cause to indict him.
The two other senators in the plunder case, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, also refused to enter a plea when they were arraigned.
Enrile challenged the prosecution to pinpoint the supposed “ghost” project he endorsed, how it was identified and by whom, the nature and where the project is located, and its cost.
The court entered a not guilty plea for Enrile. His co-accused, businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, pleaded not guilty, while his other co-accused and former chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes did not show up because she is still confined at the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital.
The Third Division denied Enrile’s motion, saying it involves documents already submitted as evidence and that he was repeating the arguments he already raised in his appeal against the court’s decision finding probable cause.
The documents “are already evidentiary and are best ventilated during trial proper,” Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Tang said.
Before the arraignment, Mendoza had insisted hat the prosecution should release documents proving that Enrile illegally received the P172 million personally.
“This is not gambling or a poker game, Your Honors. They cannot keep their cards close to their chest. This is a criminal trial,” he said.
Prosecutor Janina Hidalgo replied by stressing that the information sought by Enrile is already contained in the plunder information against him.
“If they bothered to read the information, it is already there. There is no effort to conceal information. This motion is mere dilatory,” Hidalgo said.
Enrile also renewed his appeal to be granted bail, saying the maximum that may be imposed on him is reclusion temporal and he is not a flight risk.
The court had thrown out his first plea—where he cited his “poor” and “frail” condition— saying it was premature.
After the arraignment, Enrile was brought back to the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital in Camp Crame in Quezon City where he has been detained since his surrender on July 4.
He was allowed by PNP doctors to attend the arraignment after his blood pressure normalized to 140/60.
A day earlier, the director of PNP Health Service, Chief Supt. Alejandrino Advincula, said transferring Enrile from the hospital to the PNP Custodial Center is very risky, and could trigger a stroke.
Advincula added that the senator has an uncontrolled hypertension. His 2-D echo test scheduled for July 9 has been postponed twice after his blood pressure rose to 200/90.
On Thursday, a medical team from the Philippine General Hospital evaluated Enrile’s condition on orders of the Sandiganbayan, who wants to determine if his request for a hospital arrest is justified.
The team will submit its report on Monday.
Reyes is also asking the Sandiganbayan to allow her transfer to a hospital.
In a three-page motion, she said the diagnosis of doctors in the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital is that she is suffering from hypertensive urgency and neurocirculatory asthenia, and that further evaluation is necessary to rule out the possibility of underlying cardiac and neurologic pathology.
Reyes, 51, wants to be confined at the Philippine Heart Center or the Santa Ana Hospital.
She said her personal physicians are connected with the Santa Ana hospital.
She submitted to the court a medical abstract signed by Dr. Anthony Lontoc of the district hospital to back up the urgency of her request.
The abstract noted that Reyes complained of persistent palpitations accompanied by lightheadedness and syncopal attack an hour before she was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday night.
Lontoc recommended that Reyes “be transferred to a tertiary hospital capable of evaluating her cardiac condition and assess her neurological status.”
Reyes was briefly detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City (Metro Manila) but was brought to the hospital after suffering from a panic attack and seizures.
The court has subpoenaed the warden of Camp Bagong Diwa’s Female Dormitory and the director of the Taguig District Hospital for a hearing on Reyes’ motion next Tuesday.