Sandigan compelled to reinvestigate plunder, graft cases
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday granted a petition by detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile to be given a Bill of Particulars or details of the cases filed against him before the Sandiganbayan to enable him to properly plead and prepare for his graft and plunder trial.
The High Court, sitting en banc, voted 8-5 in favor of Enrile’s petition that was filed in August last year, SC spokesman Theodore Te told reporters.
“In light of the court action, petitioner Senator Enrile is given the opportunity to confirm or change the plea that the Sandiganbayan entered for him, if he so wishes,” Te said.
The SC, however, failed to vote on Enrile’s petition for bail for lack of time as the justices had to hear the oral arguments in the Torre de Manila case.
With the granting of Enrile’s petition, the case will go back to the Office of the Ombudsman, in the process possibly compelling Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to reinvestigate the cases filed against the 91-year-old lawmaker.
Voting in favor of Enrile’s “Bill of Particulars” petition were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Estela Perlas-Bernabe while dissenting were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama and Marvic Leonen.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes was on leave, while Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited from participating in the case as he was the Solicitor General when the case was initially filed.
Named respondents in Enrile’s petition were Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, and Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz of the anti-graft court’s Third Division, which handles the senator’s plunder and graft cases.
Enrile was charged by the Office of the Ombudsman with one count of plunder and 15 counts of graft in connection with his alleged involvement in the so-called pork barrel scam, which was claimed to be masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Enrile and his former chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes were accused of amassing P172.8 million in kickbacks from 2004 to 2010 through non-government organizations associated with Napoles.
Enrile told the High Court that the Sandiganbayan acted without, or in excess of, jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion, when it compelled him to plead to the criminal charges without granting his “Motion for Bill of Particulars.”
Under Section 9, Rule 116 of the Rules of Court, an accused has the right to move for a “Bill of Particulars” to enable him or her to properly plead and prepare for the trial.
Through the “Bill of Particulars,” an accused can ask for details of the case being lodged against him, including particular facts or pieces of information about the case, to ensure that the trial would be fair.
“The denial by the Sandiganbayan of petitioner Enrile’s ‘Motion for Bill of Particulars’ compels him to go to trial practically with one eye blindfolded,” the petition read.
Among the details of the case that Enrile wanted to know before he was arraigned were:
• Names of the specific people who delivered and received the over P172 million he
allegedly pocketed, as well as the dates and places where the money was delivered;
• Description of each project funded by Enrile’s “pork barrel” or Priority Development Assistance Fund, including details on who identified the projects, nature, location and costs of the projects;
• What particular Commission on Audit’s audits and field investigations were conducted to validate findings that Enrile’s PDAFs went to ghost projects;
• How Enrile allegedly took undue advantage of his government position to enrich himself at the expense of the people;
• Who amassed or acquired the accumulated amount of over P172 million;
•With whom did Enrile conspire;
•What particular acts constitute the “combination or series of overt criminal acts” that were done to accumulate the amount, what particular acts constitute the “series” and who among the accused committed these acts.