Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the country’s most prominent politicians and the third legislator facing criminal charges in the pork barrel corruption scandal, on Friday surrendered to authorities at the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame.
The 90-year-old Enrile was driven in a convoy of several cars from his house in Dasmariñas Village in Makati City to Camp Crame, the PNP headquarters in Quezon City. According to his lawyer, Enrique dela Cruz, the senator was accompanied by his children, Jack and Katrina.
His wife, Kristina, was not in the convoy, dela Cruz said.
Before leaving, Enrile told his children, “Don’t worry, I’ll be back,” according to the lawyer.
The senator declined to be interviewed by the scores of media representatives who waited outside his house.
After he was booked, Enrile was taken to the PNP hospital inside the camp so doctors could check the slight rise in his blood pressure. He will most likely spend the night there.
Hours earlier, the Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of the senator, who is accused of taking huge kickbacks in exchange for pork barrel releases.
“The first order of arrest is issued against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile,” court clerk Dennis Pulma told reporters, reading from a resolution of the anti-graft tribunal.
Enrile is the third senator to be ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan in the case in which dozens of lawmakers, their staff and other officials are accused of embezzling billions of pesos allotted for development projects.
Already detained at the PNP Custodial Center are Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.
The three were among dozens indicted earlier this year.
Enrile was accused of pocketing P172 million in public funds that were allegedly diverted to ghost projects.
He has been charged with one count of plunder, punishable by life imprisonment.
The case erupted last year when businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles was accused of colluding with lawmakers to embezzle an estimated P10 billion from legislators’ pork barrel funds, or money for their pet projects.
Napoles initially denied any wrongdoing, then in a failed effort to turn state witness gave prosecutors a list implicating more than 100 lawmakers. She has also been charged with plunder.
Two of those on the list are now members of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s Cabinet but they deny the charges and say Napoles is spreading false information to deflect blame.
Enrile’s lawyers also wrote to PNP officials requesting that his mug shots “be kept confidential, or its taking altogether dispensed with.”
“Beyond the irreparable impact on the subject, the proliferation of the ‘mug shots’ are associated with ‘most wanted’ posters displayed in law enforcement agencies, shown in the movies and television shows, such that it is almost always inferred that the person involved automatically has a criminal record or is a hardened criminal,” the lawyers said.
Reacting to Enrile’s arrest, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement: “We are one with the people in their collective aspirations for truth and justice to prevail.”
In a separate statement, Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the issuance of warrants of arrest “is a step forward in discerning the truth in the pork barrel scam cases.”
Also ordered arrested were Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff; Ronald Lim, Napoles’ brother; and John Raymond de Asis, Napoles’ driver.
The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division issued the warrants after finding probable cause.
The resolution for the arrests was signed by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Samuel Martires.
The court also issued a resolution denying ex-Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan’s plea to travel abroad.
AFP, Jefferson Antiorda, Anthony Vargas, Catherine S. Valente and Reina Tolentino