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Editorial

Cancel his ‘special accommodation’

/ 05:28 AM October 25, 2018

Quick, why is Juan Ponce Enrile not in jail again, despite the nonbailable charge of plunder against him?

Because, on Aug. 20, 2015, the Supreme Court voted 8-4 to allow Enrile to post bail on humanitarian grounds, citing his advanced age and supposed frail health.

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According to the majority decision, “To ignore his advanced age and unstable health condition in order to deny his right to bail on the basis alone of the judicial discretion to deny bail would be probably unjust.”

Enrile was 91 years old at the time. Among his cited health problems that apparently moved the justices were chronic hypertension, cardiovascular disease, irregular heartbeat, asthma-COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) overlap syndrome, eyesight problems, and historical diagnoses of high blood sugar, high cholesterol, gait or balance disorder, upper gastrointestinal bleeding and an enlarged prostate.

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Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, in a 29-page dissent, blasted the majority decision as a case of “special accommodation” that “will usher an era of truly selective justice not based on clear legal provisions.”

Many other aging prisoners, he pointed out, also suffer from health conditions, but “may not have the resources to launch a full-scale legal offensive marked with the creativity of well-networked defense counsel” — unlike the “unbelievably fortunate” Enrile.

Then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also said the ruling had violated the equal protection clause, as the bail grant was tantamount to a “special favor” for the most senior member of the Senate.

And why had Enrile been hauled into jail in the first place, setting into motion this shabby Supreme Court ruling?

Because, along with former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, he was charged with and put on trial for plunder over his alleged participation in the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, which saw lawmakers funneling their pork barrel allotment into ghost projects and foundations ran by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

According to the Ombudsman, the budget department released a total of P345 million from 2007 to 2009 as part of Enrile’s PDAF to several agri-oriented agencies he had identified, allegedly for tools and implements, as well as fund grants, subsidies and technical assistance to farmers. Subsequent field validations, however, revealed no such deliveries made to the supposed beneficiaries.

Whistleblower Benhur Luy’s records also appeared to show that Enrile had received commissions, rebates or kickbacks amounting to at least P172.8 million through his chief of staff and fellow PDAF respondent Gigi Reyes — a setup testified to by Reyes’ friend and eventual state witness Ruby Tuason, who allegedly acted as  go-between for Napoles and Enrile’s office.

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Enrile, free on provisional liberty for the last three years, appears to have recovered splendidly from the slew of ailments he had complained about while in detention.

At the height of the impeachment hearings against former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, there was even talk that he would join the prosecution team against Sereno — meant to reprise, undoubtedly, his sterling performance at the impeachment trial of Sereno’s predecessor, Renato Corona.

Last week, he confirmed the exemplary state of his health when he filed his candidacy for senator in next year’s elections, catching everyone by surprise.

Not one survey had factored in Enrile among the current “senatoriables,” on the general belief that he was retired from active politics for good.

But the former Senate president and martial-law implementor said he wanted “to join the fun,” and so is now once again a candidate, at 94.

“All I can say is, physically, I am fit to serve. Mentally, I am more than fit to serve,” he declared.

Well, then. Perhaps the Supreme Court should forthwith reconsider the special bail it granted Enrile, since the object of their commiseration, now well up and about, evidently has no qualms belying the court’s rationale for his release.

As many observers have pointed out, if this man says he is fit enough to withstand the rigors of a national campaign, then surely he is fit enough to stay behind bars while his case is being tried.

Enrile himself revels in being seen as astoundingly sharp and spry for his age — and he is.

Why then, what injustice would there be in canceling the bail of so robust a man and ushering him back to his jail cell, where people on trial for plunder like him belong by law?­

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TAGS: 2019 elections, conchita carpio-morales, Inquirer editorial, Janet Lim-Napoles, Juan Ponce Enrile, Marvic Leonen, plunder case, pork barrel scam, Supreme Court
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