The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan is set to try a plunder suit against two of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s co-accused in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam next week.
Enrile is facing a P172-million plunder case along with his former aide Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Two other respondents, Napoles’ employee John Raymund de Asis and nephew Ronald John Lim, remain at large.
In October 2015, the court scheduled trial dates thrice a week every morning starting January 13 with respect to Reyes and Napoles after pre-trial of charges against them proceeded.
A pre-trial conference determines direction of the case and aims to consider matters for a fair and expeditious trial.
The Sandiganbayan earlier deferred the pre-trial with respect to Enrile, whose camp is awaiting the Supreme Court’s (SC) final ruling on the issue of the bill of particulars.
According to Enrile’s lawyer Joseph Sagandoy Jr., they “cannot proceed to trial without those details.”
The Office of the Ombudsman has a pending motion for reconsideration with the SC on its ruling granting Enrile’s plea for the bill of particulars which, the defense said, will help him prepare for his defense by requiring the prosecution to disclose detailed information on the plunder charge.
The senator is out on bail after the SC granted his bail petition on humanitarian grounds, while Reyes is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City (Metro Manila).
Napoles is serving a life sentence at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila) after a Makai City court found her guilty in a serious illegal detention case filed by Benhur Luy, who is among the key pork barrel scam witnesses.
Also scheduled for trial next week are the graft, malversation and direct bribery charges filed against former Rep. Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro City, also in connection with the PDAF scam.
The Sandiganbayan’s First Division will try the charges against Jaraula starting January 19.
Jaraula allegedly received kickbacks totaling P20.8 million out of P50.5- million PDAF allocation from 2004 to 2007 that was supposedly for financial assistance, technical assistance through video courses and printed materials.
The Ombudsman said the projects were found to be “ghost” projects because they were allegedly never implemented in the lone district of Cagayan de Oro.
Jaraula was one of five former congressional representatives whom the Ombudsman charged before the Sandiganbayan in February 2015 in connection with the PDAF scam.
The others included former congressmen and now Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete of Masbate and also former congressman Edgar Valdez of the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives, who face separate plunder and graft charges before the court’s Fourth and Fifth Divisions, respectively.
Bail petitions of Lanete and Valdez are yet to be resolved.
Jaraula and two other former congressmen, Samuel Dangwa of Benguet and Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Su, face separate graft, malversation and direct bribery charges.
The charges against Dangwa, which are pending before the court’s Third Division, are still in the pre-trial stage while the court’s Second Division has scheduled the pre-trial of the charges against Plaza on March 7.
Meanwhile, Enrile was one of three senators whom the Ombudsman charged before the Sandiganbayan in June 2014 in connection with the pork barrel scam, the other two being Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
The senators allegedly received millions in kickbacks by pouring their PDAF allocation into non-government organizations (NGOs) supposedly run by Napoles for projects that allegedly turned out to be “ghost.”
The P224-million plunder case against Revilla, which is pending before the court’s First Division, is scheduled for pre-trial on February 4 after the pre-trial was deferred twice last year because the parties have not finished marking the evidence that they intend to present during trial.
In December 2014, the court denied the bail petition of Revilla as well as those of his co-accused Napoles and his former aide Richard Cambe.
Estrada — who is facing a P183-million plunder case along with his former aide Pauline Labayen (at large), Napoles, and de Asis — has a pending bail petition before the court’s Fifth Division.
The petition — which the Sandiganbayan had been hearing since July 2014 — was submitted for resolution on December 15, 2015 after the prosecution and the defense filed their respective memoranda containing their evidence and the gist of witnesses’ testimonies.
Under the rules, the court has 48 hours or had until December 17 to decide whether to grant or junk it.
But the court sent a letter to the SC en banc (full bench) last December 16 for an extension of 15 working days or until January 13, 2016 to resolve Estrada’s bail petition.
According to Fifth Division Clerk of Court Ma. Teresa Pabulayan, “The reason cited was the voluminous documentary evidence that needs to be reviewed.”
Revilla and Estrada are both detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City.
Earlier, the prosecution said it intends to present 66 witnesses including “Others” for the trial of Enrile’s co-accused.
Among the witness were Ruby Tuason as well as Napoles’ former employees-turned-witnesses including Luy, Merlina Suñas and Mary Arlene Baltazar.
Also included were representatives from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares or her representative and ex-officio Senate blue ribbon committee member Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.
Also included were branch managers or representatives of Metrobank, Landbank of the Philippines “and other banks;” and resident auditors from the Commission on Audit assigned to implementing agencies Technology Resource Center, National Agribusiness Corp. and National Livelihood Development Corp.