The Sandiganbayan on Friday ordered the suspension of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile for 90 days in connection with a plunder case he faces.
Enrile becomes the second senator to be suspended by the anti-graft court, after Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
In its ruling, the court’s Third Division said it can suspend a government official if it determines that a plunder charge filed against him is valid.
It rejected Enrile’s argument that suspending him would disenfranchise the 15 million people who voted for him, saying the suspension is not a penalty but a mere preventive measure.
Enrile’s lawyer Estelito Mendoza has told the court that a senator may only be suspended on a vote of two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.
In a separate hearing on Friday. the Third Division ordered Enrile’s co-accused, Janet Lim-Napoles, transferred from her detention facility in Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa City, Laguna, to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) female dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa. Taguig City (Metro Manila).
The court said the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Forces (SAF) Training School in Fort Santo Domingo is not under BJMP jurisdiction, “hence, it is not a jail.”
Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, has been detained at Fort Santo Domingo on a serious illegal detention charge filed before a Makati Citycourt.
Enrile’s suspension, the court said, would not encroach on the independence of Congress because it is mandated under the Anti-Graft Law and distinct from the legislature’s power to discipline its ranks.
Prosecutors said if Enrile is “not suspended and prevented from discharging official acts, he may frustrate his prosecution and commit further acts of malfeasance.”
Enrile is accused of receiving kickbacks amounting to P172 million in exchange for pork barrel releases to bogus projects.
Since his surrender, the 90-year-old senator has been staying at the Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Crame n Quezon City.
The court has deferred a ruling on his request for hospital arrest while his medical condition is evaluated.
It also denied a plea of former Technology Resource Center (TRC) Director General Dennis Cunanan to reconsider his request to travel abroad.
Cunanan, whose request for immunity has been denied by the Office of the Ombudsman, is Enrile’s co-accused in two counts of graft.
Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David said his client cried out in surprise on hearing the ruling for her transfer.
David said they will appeal the ruling.
Napoles missed her bail hearing on Friday.
With Ruffie Nyhl Cruz