Court junks En­rile, aide’s bid for jus­tice’s in­hi­bi­tion


THE Sandi­gan­bayan’s Spe­cial Third Divi­sion has thumbed down a plea of for­mer Sen. Juan Ponce En­rile and of his for­mer aide Jes­sica Lu­cila “Gigi” Reyes that Sandi­gan­bayan Pre­sid­ing Jus­tice Am­paro Cab­o­taje-Tang in­hibit her­self from a plun­der case filed against them and sev­eral oth­ers in con­nec­tion with the Pri­or­ity De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund (PDAF) or pork bar­rel scam.

In a res­o­lu­tion pro­mul­gated on Septem­ber 14, the court de­nied the re­spec­tive mo­tions filed by En­rile and Reyes “for ut­ter lack of merit.”

The rul­ing said in part that “the ac­cused- movants merely point to ad­verse and al­leged er­ro­neous res­o­lu­tions penned by the chair­per­son. As ear­lier dis­cussed, th­ese do not con­sti­tute a valid or just ground for a vol­un­tary in­hi­bi­tion.”

“In­so­far as the ac­cused-movants’ in­sin­u­a­tion that the chair­per­son may be par­tial be­cause she was an ap­pointee of for­mer Pres­i­dent [Benigno] Aquino [3rd], the same is sheer spec­u­la­tion, which mis­er­ably falls short of the re­quired ‘clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence’ to war­rant the grant of a mo­tion for vol­un­tary in­hi­bi­tion pred­i­cated on bias and prej­u­dice,” it added.

“In­deed, if all mem­bers of the bench were to be com­pelled to re­cuse them­selves on the ground that un­con­scious pow­ers re­sid­ing be­neath them could prob­a­bly hold sway, then no­body would be sit­ting on any bench in any court right at this very mo­ment,” it said in part.

Tang, who was ap­pointed as the Sandi­gan­bayan’s pre­sid­ing jus­tice in 2013, con­cur­rently leads the court’s Third Divi­sion where the case is pend­ing.

En­rile’s camp had claimed that there was “ex­tra­or­di­nary speed” in the con­duct of pro­ceed­ings dur­ing his ar­raign­ment and the hear­ing on his plea for a bill of par­tic­u­lars.

But the court said that ex­cept for claim­ing such, he “has not pre­sented clear and con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence that the court acted with bias or prej­u­dice when it de­nied his mo­tion for a bill of par­tic­u­lars, his mo­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion thereof and his mo­tion to sus­pend ar­raign­ment in one set­ting.”

Mean­while, Reyes ear­lier filed a man­i­fes­ta­tion and mo­tion say­ing that she was adopt­ing En­rile’s plea for Tang’s vol­un­tary in­hi­bi­tion.

Reyes’s camp al­leged that Tang al­lowed her “to be prej­u­diced in a pro­ceed­ing in which she did not par­tic­i­pate and was not heard at all, in vi­o­la­tion of the fun­da­men­tal tenets of due process of law,” when spe­cific find­ings of cul­pa­bil­ity were made against her in a March 2, 2016 res­o­lu­tion wherein the court de­nied Napoles’ plea to re­con­sider the de­nial of her bail pe­ti­tion.

Napoles is Janet Lim-Napoles, al­leged ar­chi­tect of the pork bar­rel scam.

The camp ar­gued that Tang “griev­ously erred” in ap­ply­ing to Reyes the part of the 2015 Supreme Court (SC) de­ci­sion — wherein the SC granted En­rile’s plea for a bill of par­tic­u­lars — re­gard­ing the va­lid­ity of the charge sheet, while “pro­hibit­ing” Reyes from in­vok­ing and avail­ing her­self of the ben­e­fits of the SC’s or­der in the same de­ci­sion for the pros­e­cu­tion to pro­vide a bill of par­tic­u­lars and from ques­tion­ing the bill of par­tic­u­lars that pro­vided de­tails on the charge.

But the court said that “[t]o be­gin with, while the afore- cited res­o­lu­tions were writ­ten by the chair­per­son, the same were de­cided by the court as a col­le­gial body.”

“More­over, the ar­gu­ment that the court’s res­o­lu­tions are er­ro­neous does not con­sti­tute a just and valid ground for the in­hi­bi­tion of the chair­per­son. To be sure, an er­ro­neous rul­ing can be reme­died and cor­rected,” it added.

The court agreed with the pros­e­cu­tion that the proper rem­edy, if Reyes firmly be­lieved that the rul­ings were er­ro­neous, is to ques­tion the rul­ings be­fore the SC.

It said it ex­pressly said in its rul­ing that it was not pass­ing judg­ment on the de­fen­dant’s cul­pa­bil­ity or non- cul­pa­bil­ity in re­solv­ing Napoles’ plea to re­con­sider the de­nial of Reyes’ bail pe­ti­tion.

“Clearly, there was no pre­judg­ment of ac­cused Reyes’s guilt. She will have the op­por­tu­nity to present her de­fense and cross- ex­am­ine the pros­e­cu­tion wit­nesses dur­ing trial at which time, their cred­i­bil­ity would be put to the cru­cible,” the court added.

En­rile is one of three for­mer se­na­tors namely, Ra­mon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jing­goy” Estrada, whom the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man charged along with Napoles and sev­eral other in­di­vid­u­als in 2014 in con­nec­tion with the PDAF scam.

Both Revilla and Estrada are de­tained at the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice Cus­to­dial Cen­ter in Camp Crame in Que­zon City, while En­rile is out on bail af­ter the Supreme Court granted his bail pe­ti­tion on hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds.

En­rile’s co-ac­cused Napoles and Reyes are de­tained at a Bureau of Jail Man­age­ment and Penol­ogy fa­cil­ity in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

Two other re­spon­dents, Napoles’s em­ployee John Ray­mund de Asis and nephew Ron­ald John Lim, re­main at large.

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