Enrile asks SC to stop plunder trial for now
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, detained senator Juan Ponce Enrile believes, gravely abused its discretion when it refused to grant his request to be provided by the prosecution details of the plunder charges filed against him.
For this, the senator wants the Supreme Court to reverse the July 11 Sandiganbayan resolution denying with finality his motion for a bill of particulars.
In a 75-page petition for certiorari filed before the Supreme Court (SC) by his lawyers on Thursday, August 7, Enrile also asked the high court to temporarily halt the proceedings in his case at the Sandiganbayan while his petition is pending with the SC.
Had the Sandiganbayan granted Enrile's motion, the bill of particulars would have provided the facts and circumstances alleged in the charge sheet against the senator. This would have enabled Enrile's camp to craft the proper pleading to the charges, said his lawyer Estelito Mendoza.
The Sandiganbayan's 3rd division, however, denied Enrile's motion, prompting the senator not to enter any plea during his arraignment. (READ: Court enters 'not guilty' plea for Enrile)
So far, what Enrile sees in the information sheet against him is "a bundle of confusing ambiguity," his petition before the SC said.
"Moreover, what injury would be caused the prosecution if the questions propounded are answered and the details requested are provided?" he asked rhetorically in his petition.
Enrile said the anti-graft court's denial of his motion "compels him to go to trial practically with one eye blindfolded."
Annul his arraignment
The senator also asked the SC to annul his arraignment.
Enrile is accused of conspiring to defraud the government by knowingly allowing bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to receive P172 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), supposedly meant for community development pet projects of his.
The NGOs, controlled by alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, hosted on paper the PDAF-funded ghost government projects.
Enrile is charged with plunder and 15 counts of graft. His motion for a bill of particulars was in relation to his plunder case.
Call them on their bluff
During oral arguments before the Sandiganbayan on Enrile's motion for a bill of particulars, Mendoza argued that "the prosecution cannot be possibly allowed to win on a bluff" in a court trial.
He said a bill of particulars will show if the prosecution is merely bluffing with the charges they have against Enrile.
"That bluff must be called now, Your Honors, by requiring the prosecution to provide these details," he told the court.
Among the questions Enrile's camp asked the court to order the prosecution to answer in a bill of particulars are:
- "From whom and for what reason did he (Enrile) receive any money or property from the government through which he 'unjustly enriched himself?'"
- "What was the overall plan? Who were parties to its conception? And to its implementation? When and how much did Napoles misappropriate for her personal gain?"
- "Who paid the money? Who received the money? When was the money paid? Where was it paid?"
- "What COA (Commission on Audit) audits or field investigations were conducted which validated the findings that each of Enrile's PDAF projects in the years 2004-2010 were ghosts or spurious projects?"
- "Who paid Napoles, from whom did Napoles collect the fund for the projects which turned out to be ghosts or fictitious? Who authorized the payments for each project?"
- What are each of the projects allegedly identified, how, and by whom was a project identified, the nature of each project, where it is located and the cost of each project?
"These questions are left unanswered because the prosecution did not bother to state them in the information," Enrile's petition read.
In arguing against the motion for a bill of particulars, the prosecution said the details asked by Enrile are already evidentiary in nature. But Enrile in his petition said they are mere "material facts" needed to be defined in the information.
Unlike the two other accused senators in the PDAF scam who have outrighlty denied allegations against them, Enrile has been more cautious in providing the press with comments on his case.
Undue publicity of charges
Enrile explained that the specified details are important to avoid a trial by publicity.
He said the allegations in the charge sheet are motherhood statements with "potential media quotability," citing a Supreme Court ruling.
"Considering the massive, aggravated and continuing condemnatory publicity over media against the accused senators, petitioner Enrile among them, a measure of restraint would be placed on such publicity if the alleged acts constituting the offense of plunder charged in the Information are specified in detail," the petition further read.
Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan ordered on Thursday further medical tests for Enrile at the Philippine General Hospital on August 11 and 12. The order is in connection with Enrile's move for a hospital arrest. – Rappler.com