The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Third Division entered a not guilty plea for Janet Lim-Napoles’ children, Jo Christine and James Christopher, who refused to enter any plea during their arraignment on Wednesday.
Like their mother, the two siblings are respondents in all 15 counts of graft leveled against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile in connection with the pork barrel scam.
“As advised by my counsel, I refuse to enter a plea,” they each said to every charge read to them by Third Division Clerk of Court Dennis Pulma.
Jo Christine and James entered no plea because of pending petitions before the Supreme Court regarding their case.
Both were wearing hooded jackets and entered and exited the courtroom to and from the elevator and held folders to hide their faces from cameras.
In the arraignment in the afternoon that lasted a little over an hour, seven others of Enrile’s co-accused were read graft charges.
The court also entered a no-guilty plea for Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare, as they, too, refused to enter any plea in all 15 counts of graft.
Private individuals Hernani Ditchon, Rodrigo Galay and Laarni Uy pleaded not guilty to two counts of graft.
Myla Ogerio’s arraignment was canceled, pending another appeal to the court.
The prosecution told the court, “The court has already exhaustively ruled on the finding of probable cause. So, the motion for reconsideration will just delay proceedings, Your Honor.”
Ogerio’s lawyer, meanwhile, said the appeal was not intended to delay but only to reiterate their arguments.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires then said that even if the court throws back the case to the Office of the Ombudsman, the latter will just deny it.
“I am 99.9 percent sure that the Ombudsman will just deny the grounds that you will raise in your motion for reconsideration,” according to the magistrate, pointing out that if they want to expedite the proceedings it would be better to forget the appeal.
When Martires asked Ogerio if she is willing to pursue an appeal, she said yes.
She was given five days from today to file it and the prosecution was also given time to respond to it upon receipt.
Preliminary conference starts tomorrow and pre-trial is expected in May next year.
A pre-trial conference aims to consider matters for a fair and expeditious trial.
Such matters include plea bargaining, stipulation of facts, marking for identification of evidence of the parties, waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence and modification of order of trial if an accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense.
Two lawyers said they will be out of town tomorrow but the court refused to cancel the scheduled preliminary conferences.