Enrile plunder trial resumes next week

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    THE Sandiganbayan Third Division has ordered the resumption of the plunder trial of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on February 18 as presentation of prosecution evidence in his 15 graft cases is set to start on February 26.

    Justices of the anti-graft court set twice-a-week hearings (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for the panel of prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman to call its witnesses to present their testimonies in the plunder case.

    Enrile was accused of receiving P172.83 million in kickbacks and commissions for allegedly funneling his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations into bogus foundations and non-government organizations (NGOs) created by co-accused Janet Lim Napoles.

    Also charged in the plunder case are Enrile’s former chief of staff Jessica “Gigi” Reyes and Napoles’ employee, John Raymund de Asis.

    Napoles is serving a sentence of reclusion perpetua at the Correctional Institution for Women after being convicted in 2018 of a separate plunder case for a similar scheme although the principal accused in that case, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., was acquitted due to lack of evidence.

    Enrile was granted bail in 2015 on humanitarian considerations based on his advanced age and delicate health. Enrile will be 96 years on Friday.

    At yesterday’s hearing, Napoles finally showed up in court to sign the pre-trial order in the 15 graft cases after earning the ire of the justices for her repeated absences.

    Her lawyers, however, have yet to comply with the court’s directive to submit Napoles’ medical records to prove that she was too ill to attend earlier hearings for supposed elevated blood sugar levels.

    The graft charges involve allegations that P345 million from Enrile’s PDAF had been illegally transferred to Napoles’ bogus NGOs for the implementation of livelihood projects that turned out to be non-existent.

    Aside from Enrile and Napoles, also named co-defendants in the graft cases are Napoles children Jo Christine and James Christopher.