Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s claim that he was summarily charged by the Ombudsman was bolstered when the Sandiganbayan ordered the prosecution to produce the evidence against him and give him the opportunity to prepare his defense once the trial in the pork barrel fund scam case against him starts.
The court’s Third Division, in a resolution issued on April 24, granted Enrile’s motion for the Ombudsman to produce the material evidence in its possession.
Despite the court’s order, however, the Sandiganbayan, said the scope of the evidence Enrile may access is limited to documents related to the case’s “bill of particulars” or the itemization of charges against him.
The former Senate president asked the Sandiganbayan to order the Ombudsman “to produce and permit the copying or photographing of any and all documents” mentioned in the bill of particulars.
Enrile is accused of pocketing some P172.8 million of his pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund by channeling the money to the fake nongovernment organizations of convicted plunderer Janet Lim Napoles.
He was initially detained at the National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City but was later released by the court on humanitarian grounds. He is 95 years old.
Since he faces a nonbailable offense that is punishable by life imprisonment, the Sandiganbayan said a good cause exists for the motion of Enrile to be granted.
In its resolution, the court said: “Enrile has absolute control on how to go about his defense. If in his mind, he needed to inspect or copy pieces of evidence [not privileged] which are material for him to make an intelligent defense, then he is allowed by the court to ask for the inspection or production of these documents.”
The court also cited Section 10, Rule 116 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure allows Enrile to avail this remedy, considering the prosecution made use of government resources to prepare its case.
Thus, the court said “Ombudsman prosecutors were wrong to call Enrile’s motion premature.
The court also noted that Enrile “only wants photocopies of evidence disclosed by the prosecution itself.”
The case against Enrile was filed during the incumbency of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, who was appointed to the position by former President Noynoy Aquino III.
Morales also filed charges against former Senators Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada. Revilla had since been acquitted while Estrada has been released on bail.
Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla are running to regain their Senate seats.
Associate Justice Ronald Moreno wrote the resolution. Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez concurred.