THE Philippine anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Tuesday rejected a motion filed by former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile seeking the dismissal of the P172 million plunder case against him which stemmed from his alleged misuse of the P375 million Priority Development Assistance Fund alloted to his office when he allegedly allowed it to be diverted to fake non-governmental organizations.
The Sandiganbayan’s decision, which was penned by the presiding justice of its Third Division, Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and concurred by Associate Justices Sarah Jane Fernandez and Zaldy Trespeses; affirmed that there is probable cause to charge the 92-year old Enrile with 15 counts of plunder and that the information sufficiently alleges that the former senator conspired with others to commit the said crime. Consequently, Enrile can now be prosecuted before the anti-graft court.
In rejecting Enrile’s motion, Justice Cabotaje-Tang, through the anti-graft court’s resolution, explained that the former senator’s move seeking the dismissal of the plunder case contradicts an earlier Supreme Court ruling which granted his motion for a bill of particulars. She added that “The present motion to quash practically assails the above finding of the Supreme Court which had long attained finality. This simply cannot be done.”
Furthermore, the lady justice said when the high tribunal granted Enrile’s motion, it was reiterating that in filing the motion for a bill of particulars, the former senator had already admitted that the information was sufficient although “unclear.”
“Accused Enrile impliedly admits that the Information sufficiently alleged a crime but is unclear and lacking in details that would allow him to properly plead and prepare his defense; he essentially alleged here a defect of form,” Justice Cabotaje-Tang said in the anti-graft court’s resolution.
Moreover, the anti-graft court’s Third Division stood firm against Enrile’s claim that the information against him was insufficient even with the government prosecutor’s presentation of the bill of particulars. They said Enrile’s arguments are “devoid of merit” noting that the facts charged in the information constitute plunder.
Justice Cabotaje-Tang also brushed aside Enrile’s insistence that the charges against him fails to specify overt acts constituting the crime of “unjust enrichment” saying that the Supreme Court has already declared that there is no need to give details on the charge of “unjust enrichment.”
“How accused Enrile, who is petitioner in the case, could miss this point belies the Court,” Cabotaje-Tang said.
Enrile, in his 67-page motion, argued that when the prosecutors submitted the bill of particulars, the charge sheet only became “more glaringly insufficient as it becomes more evident that it failed to charge the offense of plunder.”
“It has now become clear that the reason the prosecutors could not provide the details and particulars of the overt acts constituting the crime of plunder is simply because they do not have such details,”the former senator said.
But Justice Cabotaje Tang said the details Enrile is seeking in the information — what is the detailed description of the project, or how the kickbacks were received — are all “evidentiary matters which can be provided during the trial.”
“It is jurisprudentially-settled that evidentiary facts need not be alleged in the Information because these are matters of defense,” she added.
Justice Cabotaje-Tang, at the same time, recalled that it already ruled on July 3, 2014 that there was probable cause to prosecute Enrile but he did not challenge this ruling. Instead, he appealed to the Supreme Court to grant him bail, which it did.
“In filing the motion for bail, accused Enrile effectively recognized the finding of probable cause by the Court. Thus, he is now barred from raising this issue especially at this late day,” Justice Cabotaje-Tang said as she set Enrile’s pre-trial on June 26, 2017.