THE prosecution team on Monday admitted that it did not present proof that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile received “pork barrel” kickbacks from Janet Lim Napoles through his former aide, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.
The government lawyers made the admission as the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division continued to hear oral arguments on the petition for bail of Napoles, a respondent in the P172-million plunder case filed against the senator in connection with the pork barrel scam.
“Were you able to present proof that accused Enrile received a single centavo…that was allegedly given by Napoles?” Associate Justice Samuel Martires asked the prosecution.
Martires also asked if they presented proof that Reyes gave the money to Enrile.
“None as of this moment for purposes of this bail hearing,” Prosecutor Edwin Gomez answered.
“We will still maintain that the receipt of Reyes is the receipt of Enrile,” Gomez added.
“Why do you have that theory?” Martires asked, pointing out that not one of the witnesses, even Ruby Tuason, testified that they saw Reyes give the money to Enrile.
Tuason has testified that she handed Enrile’s commissions to Reyes.
Gomez said Reyes was the senator’s chief-of-staff and the position “cloaked Reyes with full authority” to supervise pork barrel-funded projects and to sign necessary documents.
But even assuming that Enrile did not receive money, the prosecution panel said he “is not off the hook.”
“We were able to prove that the ill-gotten wealth, kickback, commission were received by Gigi Reyes and were intended for accused Enrile, Your Honor. But even assuming that Sen. Enrile did not receive…kickback, it was Gigi Reyes who appropriated [the money], still there is plunder because she was a public officer at the time,” Director Manuel Soriano said.
When asked why only Reyes was charged when another Enrile aide, Jose Antonio Evangelista, signed 13 endorsement letters, the prosecution said the latter was only authorized by Reyes to sign on her behalf and that the Office of the Ombudsman did not find probable cause against him.
Napoles’ petition for bail, which the court has been hearing since August last year, is now submitted for resolution.
Napoles is serving a life sentence at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong for serious illegal detention while Reyes is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig.
Enrile regained his temporary freedom after the Supreme Court granted his bail petition on humanitarian grounds last month.