Enrile asks Sandiganbayan to junk his plunder case due to ‘flawed’ pre-trial order

Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the plunder charge filed against him because he was not allowed to object or comment on the pre-trial order issued by the court.

Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile (Senate of the Philippines)

In his pleading objecting to the admission of the 403-page pre- trial order, Enrile – through his lawyer Estelito P. Mendoza – said he and his lawyer were not allowed to comment or object to the pre-trial order that was not given them during the Jan. 29, 2021 hearing of the cases.

Enrile pointed out that while he affixed his signature on the last page of the pre-trial order as directed by the anti-graft court, he filed his objection to the pre-trial order.

In a note after his signature, Enrile wrote: "My signature is subject to my right to comment or object after receipt of the pre-trial order. I waive no rights under the signature which is made to comply with the directive of the court because I have not read the pre-trial order."

Last Feb. 26, Enrile, in a manifestation, reiterated his objection to the admission of the pre-trial order which he pointed out during the Jan. 29 hearing.

It was not known immediately if the Sandiganbayan has, thereafter, allowed Enrile to file his comment or objection to the pre-trial order.

Then last March 23, he filed another manifestation objecting to the admission of the pre-trial order.

He invoked the Supreme Court’s ruling on a case involving bill of particulars he himself filed in connection with the same plunder case against him in Sandiganbayan cases.

In that case resolved in 2015, the SC ruled:

“On the other hand, the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure grants the accused the remedy of a bill of particulars to better inform himself of the specifics or particulars concerning facts or matters that had not been averred in the Information with the necessary clarity for purposes of his defense.

“Its purpose is to better acquaint the accused of the specific acts and/or omissions in relation with the crime charged, to limit the matters and the evidence that the prosecution may otherwise be allowed to use against him under a more or less general averment, and to meet the charges head on and timely object to evidence whose inadmissibility may otherwise be deemed waived.”

Enrile said the SC ruling “is a judicial edit not only binding on the parties but on the court, particularly the Sandiganbayan….”

Thus, he pleaded the anti-graft court:

"Wherefore, it is respectfully prayed that the 'Pre-Trial Order' consisting of 403 pages be denied admission, and, absent such pre-trial order, there cannot be a trial compliant with Section 14(1) and Section 14(2), Article III of the Constitution. As a consequence, the case must be dismissed forthwith."

Section 14 (1) provides that “no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law,” while Section 14 (2) states that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf....”

Enrile is facing one plunder and 15 graft charges for allegedly misusing his P172 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which he allegedly endorsed to the bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

In 2015, the Supreme Court allowed him to post bail on his plunder charge for humanitarian considerations.

In 2016, Enrile asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss his plunder case.  He claimed that the information (criminal charge sheet) presented by the prosecution does not constitute the offense of plunder defined under the plunder law because there was no showing of "a series of overt criminal acts" made with his co-accused -- chief of staff Jessica "Gigi" Reyes and deputy chief of staff Jose Antonio Evangelista II.

The Sandiganbayan, however, denied his motion to dismiss.