Enrile asks Sandiganbayan to drop plunder case citing age, trial delays

QUEZON CITY — Chief presidential legal counsel and former senator Juan Ponce Enrile has urged the Sandiganbayan to immediately resolve his motion to dismiss the plunder case against him.

This comes after the anti-graft court’s Third Division ruled on October 13 to resolve his demurrer to evidence “simultaneously or jointly with the main decision after the presentation of evidence for the other accused.”

A demurrer is essentially a motion to dismiss due to insufficiency of prosecution evidence without need for the accused to present defense evidence.

The Sandiganbayan ruling meant Enrile won’t get an early resolution of his motion since his co-accused, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes and Janet Lim Napoles, would still have to present their evidence.

Enrile, Reyes and Napoles are accused of amassing P172.83 million worth of kickbacks from Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) funneled through ghost NGOs created by Napoles.
Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan has denied the appeal of Gigi Reyes for the outright dismissal of her plunder case in relation to the pork barrel scam.

In a resolution issued on October 17, the Sandiganbayan Third Division dismissed Reyes’ appeal on the denial of her motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence, noting that Reyes just reiterated the same argument in her earlier motion that had been denied.

“Apart from restating the grounds mentioned in the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence, no new arguments were raised that would warrant a reversal of the Court’s Resolution dated September 19, 2023,” the court said.

Reyes is accused of acting in conspiracy with her former boss, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, and private defendants Janet Lim Napoles and John Raymund de Asis to defraud the government of hundreds of millions from Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel.”

In his motion for reconsideration, Enrile said the resolution violates the Constitution as “it does not promote a speedy disposition of cases and it diminishes Enrile’s substantive right to speedy trial.”

His criminal prosecution started on June 5, 2014 and has been pending for more than 9 years, noted the motion for reconsideration dated October 20.

“At every opportunity, Enrile invoked his constitutional right to speedy trial while also reminding this Honorable Court of his vulnerable age as well as that of his counsel. Enrile is 99 years old while the undersigned counsel is 93 years old,” added the motion signed by Enrile’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza.

The Sandiganbayan’s Internal Rules allow a delayed resolution of the demurrer in cases where there are several accused or if some did not file a demurrer, instead of the 45-day deadline to resolve it.