SENATE Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile has returned to the Senate but unlike his colleagues who expressed excitement, the veteran lawmaker said he is not excited to be back because it’s his job to be there.
The 91-year-old senator added that he still feels the same and he intends to continue working and do his job as lawmaker.
“I’m not excited, I’m just going to work,” Enrile told reporters. “I will perform my duty for as long as I have my own energy,” he said.
Enrile was ordered arrested and detained by the Sandiganbayan in connection with plunder and other graft-related charges filed against him for his alleged involvement in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam. The Supreme Court (SC), last week, granted his petition for bail allowing him to be released temporarily from detention.
Enrile said he did not miss his work in the Senate because he has kept himself busy working on state papers while he was in detention.
“I believe I’m still lacking in knowledge that is why I’m studying,” he told reporters in Filipino.
The veteran lawmaker said he also does not see his more than 12 months in hospital arrest as a waste of his time, although he believes that it is unfair to the nation.
“Dahil sinusweldahan ako eh, di ako nagtatrabaho eh. Di ba? [Because I am receiving my salary but I’m not working, isn’t it?)” Enrile explained.
When asked if he will actively participate in debates on the proposed Basic Law on Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), he replied that he still has to look at the proposal.
Senator Ferdnand Marcos Jr., in an earlier interview, said Enrile’s inputs and wise counsel could help in plenary debates on his proposed version of the BLBAR.
The Senate began interpellations on the BLBAR also on Monday.
Enrile, meanwhile, refused to discuss issues relating to his case and even refrain to give comments on a statement earlier made by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima that the granting of his bail petition has turned the country into a “banana republic.”
“Wala akong paningin tungkol diyan eh [I don’t have views about it, I cannot discuss my case,” the senator said.
Anti-graft drive continues
The President also on Monday maintained that the Supreme Court (SC) decision to grant Enrile bail would not undermine the government’s campaign to pursue corrupt officials.
Speaking to reporters in Cebu City, he was asked if the granting of bail to Enrile would affect the government’s anti-corruption drive.
“Iyong pinakaimportante ayon kay [Justice] Secretary Leila [de Lima], kasi parang ang plunder na isa sa mga kaso ay supposed to be non-bailable. Ngayon doon sa pagiging non-bailable, marami dito sa mga non-bailable na asunto pwede nang mabigyan ng piyansa kapag mababa ‘yung ebidensiya, ‘yung mahina ang ebidensiya. Importante yatang tingnan natin doon sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema ay wala silang binabanggit tungkol doon sa ebidensiyang hinarap at tila nakasentro doon sa edad at kalagayan ng kalusugan ni Senator Enrile. So, maaapektuhan ba? Hindi. Tuluy-tuloy ang kampanya natin [Plunder is supposed to be non-bailable, that is a very important point for Secretary de Lima. Now, many non-bailable cases can now be considered bailable if evidence is weak. In the Supreme Court decision, nothing was mentioned about evidence and it seemed to focus only on Sen. Enrile’s age and health],” Aquino said.
He noted that the National Bureau of Investigation recently filed before the Ombudsman the third set of cases against officials suspected of misusing their pork barrel funds.
“Hindi ho nahihinto at tuloy pa rin ‘yung paglilitis [Trial is going on],” the President said.
He reiterated that the High Court released Enrile on bail for humanitarian reasons rather than weak evidence against the senator.
When asked about renewed calls for the SC to also grant former president now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo bail, the President replied that those who have committed crimes must be held accountable.
“Kailangan kung mabigat ang krimeng ginawa mo, may mabigat rin namang dapat na kaparusahan [Heavy crime begets heavy punishment],” he said.
Arroyo faces a P366-million plunder case in connection with alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence fund during her second term as President from 2004 to 2010, as well as electoral sabotage for alleged election fraud in the 2004 presidential elections and the 2007 senatorial elections.