THERE’S a chance that Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who is under hospital arrest for plunder, will gain his temporary liberty when the Supreme Court (SC) votes on his petition for bail on Tuesday.
Sources at the High Court said voting will be close because the justices are almost equally divided on Enrile’s petitions for Bill of Particulars and for bail.
The SC en banc will tackle both petitions tomorrow.
Unimpeachable sources over the weekend told The Manila Times that two draft decisions have been prepared and will be voted on by 14 justices.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited himself because he had handled the case when he was the Solicitor General.
A source said Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who is currently on medical leave, has left his vote.
The sources said Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the ponente, is of the belief that Enrile should be allowed to post bail for humanitarian reasons.
The senator, who was accused of receiving kickbacks from the use of his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel, is 91 years old.
Enrile’s age may work for him because under the Revised Penal Code, convicts aged 70 and above are given sentences a degree lower, meaning those who should be sentenced to reclusion temporal penalty under normal circumstances will only get a jail sentence of 12 to 20 years.
This principle will apply to Enrile if he will be convicted.
Also, the senator will be given credit because of his voluntary surrender.
One of the justices who is not in favor of allowing Enrile to post bail is Justice Marvic Leonen, who wanted proof to show that the senator is indeed 91 years old.
A source said the other justices laughed off Leonen’s request for a copy of Enrile’s birth certificate, lecturing him that it is of “judicial notice” that the senator is an old man.
Leonen has circulated his dissenting opinion stating that the case must be remanded to the Sandiganbayan for the anti-graft court to determine if the evidence of guilt is strong.
Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe also manifested her dissent, the source said.
Bill of Particulars
On the senator’s petition for Bill of Particulars, the source noted that justices are inclined to vote for Enrile.
Associate Justice Arturo Brion, who was designated the ponente of the case, is in favor of granting Enrile’s petition, the source said.
In his petition, Enrile accused the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division of committing grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
If his petition is granted, the case will go back to the Office of the Ombudsman and a reinvestigation will be conducted.
Bernabe, the source said, has issued a separate opinion concurring with Brion.
She, however, expressed reservations on Brion’s draft ponencia that Enrile undergo another arraignment.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is also against the ponencia of Brion, the source said.
Carpio also wrote his dissenting opinion blocking Enrile’s plea.