Sandiganbayan indefinitely postpones Enrile plunder trial

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 19) — The much-anticipated plunder trial of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who was charged with plunder over the pork barrel scam, was canceled and indefinitely put on hold on Tuesday.

The trial date was announced as early as December 2018, but it was once again canceled after years of delay. The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division did not provide a new schedule.

Third Division Clerk of Court Atty. Dennis Pulma said alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles previously manifested that she be allowed to attend all her plunder and graft trials. But since she was convicted in the plunder case involving former Senator Bong Revilla and transferred to the Correctional Institution for Women, the Supreme Court has to give the go signal for her to leave detention.

Pulma said the Sandiganbayan asked the Supreme Court to exempt the Priority Development Assistance Fund cases from the rule disallowing national prisoners to leave detention to attend their trial. The high court, however, has not replied to their request so the 3rd Division decided to cancel Enrile's plunder trial.

The plunder case was filed more than four years ago, but Enrile has waived his appearance in the hearings as the 95-year-old politician continues to campaign for another shot at the Senate.

Enrile is facing a plunder charge and 15 counts of graft for allegedly diverting his pork barrel to bogus NGOs in exchange for kickbacks.

His cases were filed in June 2014, along with those filed against former senator Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. But his trial had long been delayed because of an issue on the supposed vagueness of the allegations against him.

Enrile had asked for a bill of particulars or a more detailed charge sheet from the Ombudsman, a motion that was only granted with finality by the Supreme Court in 2016.

He then used the bill of particulars to file a motion seeking to dismiss his case, which the Sandiganbayan dismissed.

Enrile is currently out on bail after the high court reversed a Sandiganbayan ruling denying him temporary liberty in 2015.

In an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines Chief Correspondent Pia Hontiveros, Enrile said he wants to see the case to its end.

"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," he said.

 

CNN Philippines correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report.