THE Sandiganbayan on Friday granted Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s plea to reset the pre-trial of his P172-million plunder case.
“We are happy and we expected that our motion will be granted because that is the logical consequence of the decision of the Supreme Court that the prosecutors need to provide the details and particulars that we are asking for because we cannot proceed to trial without those details,” Enrile’s lawyer Joseph Sagandoy Jr. told reporters.
The anti-graft court’s Third Division first cancelled the pre-trial in July 31 because the parties have yet to finish the preliminary conferences where evidences to be presented during trial are marked.
The 91-year-old senator, who is facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the pork barrel scam, is out on bail after the Supreme Court (SC) granted his petition for bail on humanitarian grounds.
The tribunal also partially granted his plea for a bill of particulars which, Enrile’s camp said, would help their client prepare for his defense by requiring the prosecution to disclose detailed information on the plunder charge.
Both SC rulings are under appeal after the Office of the Ombudsman filed separate motions for reconsideration last week.
The pre-trial of Enrile’s co-accused, his former aide Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes as well as businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, would have proceeded yesterday but it likewise did not push through because the prosecution team has yet to file its pre-trial brief.
“Considering that the prosecution has not submitted its pre-trial brief, the pre-trial in this case is reset to October 27,” the court’s Third Division Chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who is also Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice, said.
The court also fined the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), which is under the Office of the Ombudsman, P1,000 for failure to file the pre-trial brief as required.
Prosecutor Edwin Gomez later asked for a reconsideration arguing that a pre-trial brief “is just a formality.”
A pre-trial brief contains the issues to be resolved during trial, the proposed stipulations on how to go about the trial as well as the documentary evidence and witnesses to be presented.
During the scheduled pre-trial, Reyes’ lawyer Anacleto Diaz argued that his client was similarly situated as the senator.
Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David, for his part, said, “How can we also prepare for [the]trial?” as he pointed out that the SC granted Enrile’s plea for a bill of particulars.
But Third Division Associate Justice Samuel Martires remarked that they proceeded with the Napoles’ bail hearings “without a shadow or a single word from the accused that she did not understand the allegations in the Information [charge sheet]” and pointed out that among the accused, it was only Enrile who wanted the charge to be stated with particularity.
In an interview after the hearing, Enrile’s lawyer Sagandoy said their camp would wait for the court’s final ruling on the issue of the bill of particulars.
Enrile will not attend the pre-trial on Oct. 27 “unless the Supreme Court immediately resolves their motion for reconsideration and that also depends on what the Supreme Court’s ruling will be,” Sagandoy said.
In a separate interview, Napoles’ lawyer David said their camp is ready for pre-trial.
“Once you submit a pre-trial brief, it means…you’re ready. We already submitted one and we have nothing more to do but to attend the pre-trial proper,” David said.
Enrile had been under hospital arrest at the Philippine National Police General Hospital before he posted bail in the plunder and graft charges following the SC’s grant of his bail petition.
Reyes is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig.
Napoles is serving life sentence at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong after a Makati court found her guilty in the serious illegal detention case filed by Benhur Luy, who is among the pork barrel scam’s key witnesses.
Meanwhile, two other respondents in the plunder case – Napoles’ nephew Ronald John Lim and employee John Raymund De Asis – remain at large.