Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (Inquirer.net photo)

THE Sandiganbayan Third Division began the trial of former Senate President

on Tuesday, February 19, for the plunder and graft case against him due to his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.  

The case was filed more than four years ago but Enrile failed to appear at most of the recent hearings because he has been campaigning for yet another Senate seat.

“It is my right to attend the hearing or not attend the hearing. I leave it to my lawyers to handle it,” Enrile said in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The senatorial candidate continuously asserted his innocence in the whole pork barrel fiasco. In an interview with CNN Philippines chief correspondent Pia Hontiveros, Enrile confidently eyed a not-guilty verdict for the said charges.

“The burden of proof is on the government because of the fact that I am presumed innocent. Precisely that’s my theory, that if I’m perceived innocent by the Constitution, why detain me? Deprive me of freedom? I would like to see the end of it,” Enrile said.

The 95-year-old senator faces a plunder charge and 15 counts of graft when he was accused of diverting his pork barrel to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) in exchange for kickbacks.

“I do not want to discuss my case, but all I can say is the government will be lucky if they present any credible evidence,” Enrile said at the forum in Annabel’s Restaurant, Quezon City on Saturday, February 16.

Enrile’s first case was filed June 2014 together with the two “pork-tagged senators” Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. However, it was delayed on the grounds that the charges and allegations were deemed as vague.

The said charge was about the P172.83-million plunder case filed against him due to his alleged involvement with the pork barrel scam. He was accused of earning about P172.83 million in “commissions” from 2003 to 2010.

He was said to have collaborated and conspired with pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, along with his former chief of staff — Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, and her driver-bodyguard John Raymund de Asis.

The former Senate president requested a bill of particulars or a more detailed charge sheet from the Ombudsman. However, the motion was only granted with finality by the Supreme Court in 2016.

Enrile then used the bill of particulars to file a motion seeking to dismiss his case, which the Sandiganbayan later dismissed. He was released on bail after the SC reversed a Sandiganbayan ruling that denied him of temporary liberty in 2015.

The senatorial candidate said that he would leave the legal concerns of his case among his lawyers should it impede his Senate bid for the May 2019 polls. 

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