As far as Malacanang is concerned, it is too early to tell if Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile can dodge jail because of “old age” if he is arrested in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
Two Palace spokesmen— Secretary Edwin Lacierda and Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.— both explained that only the court can decide whether or not the 90-year-old Enrile should go to jail.
Retired Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno said on Wednesday that unlike his “younger” co-accused, Enrile can enjoy “privileges” under the law because of his age.
But in a text message to The Manila Times, Coloma said it was “ premature to comment and inappropriate to speculate. Let’s allow the law to takes its course.”
Lacierda said while Enrile can seek such remedies, the court must be convinced.
“We will need to defer to the court’s discretion as this issue on detention maybe brought up to the court for disposition,” Lacierda said in a separate text message.
The two said President Benigno Aquino 3rd wants nothing less than a conviction for all those involved in the pork barrel case. Besides Enrile, Sens. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. are among the respondents in the case.
Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles allegedly masterminded the funnelling of billions of pork barrel funds into her bogus non-government organizations before the funds found their way into the pockets of the lawmakers.
On Wednesday, Coloma said they are confident that all the accused would be arrested once the case has been elevated to the Sandiganbayan.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman issued a resolution affirming the charges of plunder and other crimes against the accused.
Zuno, a veteran criminal prosecutor, had worked for the conviction of former president Joseph Estrada for plunder and former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos for rape.
According to Zuno, Enrile can escape jail because the Revised Penal Code allows mitigating circumstances to lower the penalty or punishment for indicted people who are 70 years old and above. Thus, if the verdict is life imprisonment, the penalty will be lowered by one degree.
Also, if Enrile is sickly, he can also ask for a hospital arrest. Or he can request that he be placed under the custody of the Senate President since he is a sitting senator.
If convicted, Enrile can automatically appeal for presidential pardon because of his age.
Joel M. Sy Egco