The Supreme Court has directed the Sandiganbayan to raffle off the plunder complaint filed against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Janet Lim Napoles, the supposed brains of the Priority Development Fund Assistance (PDAF) scam.
The High Court’s order was dated June 10, 2014 but it was not discussed by SC spokesman Theodoro Te when he briefed reporters about the case on Tuesday. A copy of the SC order was posted on Twitter.
When texted by Justice reporters, Te denied he knew the resolution.
“Have you read the reso? I haven’t. I only reported what I was authorized to say. Let’s just wait for the reso. Thanks,” Te said in a text message.
Te on Tuesday said the High Court directed the Sandiganbayan to comment on the request of the Office of the Ombudsman for the creation of special divisions that will exclusively handle cases related with the pork scam.
The Sandiganbayan division to which the plunder complaint will be raffled will issue warrants for the arrest of the three senators, Napoles and their co-accused once it determines that there is probable cause to jail the accused.
However, this early, calls for a house arrest for Enrile, who turned 90 in February, gained support in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, with Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. making the pitch.
Belmonte’s sentiments were echoed by House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora, as well as Rep. Ferdinand Romualdez of Leyte and Rep. Rodolfo Albano of Isabela.
“I think when you are 90, 80, or even 70 . . . you deserve some consideration from the courts. I would hate for anybody to go the kind of rigorous detention that we prescribe in our jails. Our jails are not the best in the world. I don’t want to see a 90-year-old individual going through this, regardless if he is innocent or guilty of whatever he is charged with,” Zamora, a lawyer, said in a news conference.
“I would say that [house arrest]is worth considering. But we don’t want to preempt the Sandiganbayan and the wishes of Senator Enrile. But we should not also forget that every body is innocent until proven guilty,” Romualdez said in a separate talk.
Enrile has been long entrenched in the government. He was the defense minister of President Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law years, a senator from 1987 to 1992, a Cagayan representative from 1992 to 1995, a senator again from 1995 to 2001, 2004 to 2010 and 2010 to present.
“It is too late in the day [for Enrile]. I am not sure if you are making any real lessons to be learned,” Zamora pointed out.
“Senator Juan Ponce Enrile is 90 years old and his being detained in an ordinary detention cell with other detainees would certainly be an ordeal that he could not withstand at his advanced age and will definitely pose threats to his health,” he said.
Zamora, however, clarified that he will respect the decision of the Sandiganbayan with regard to Enrile’s arrest.
“The important thing is everybody is treated equally and given the chance to defend themselves. Those are really the bedrock principles of all law-abiding societies,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima disclosed that the highly anticipated third batch of cases involving the PDAF or pork barrel scam is likely to be filed either on Friday or early next week.
De Lima said it would be the last batch of the cases that would be filed by the
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in connection with the 2007-2009 special audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA).
“It’s going to be the last batch for that [COA report]. But that doesn’t mean that’s going to be the last batch for PDAF cases. There [were]also PDAF [allocations]before 2007 but that [filing of cases if the allocations were misused]would depend if we can build the [cases]on our level, otherwise we will refer [the matter]to the IAGC (Inter-agency Anti-Graft Council),” she told Senate reporters.
When asked if there are lawmakers and Cabinet officials who would be included in the complaints, de Lima neither confirmed nor denied it, only maintaining that they could only divulge the names at the time of the filing of the complaints.
The Justice secretary also said complaints would not include plunder because the amount supposedly received by the implicated individuals did not reach the threshold amount for plunder which is P50 million.
The DOJ was supposed to file the third batch of PDAF scam-related cases early this year but it was delayed because it wanted to make sure that the cases would pass the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan later.
It has filed two sets of complaints against lawmakers, government officials and private individuals implicated in the pork barrel scam.