Prosecution withdraws amended plunder vs Enrile

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Monday, June 30, 2014

STATE prosecutors withdrew on Monday their bid to amend the plunder charges against Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the three senators charged in connection with the pork barrel anomaly.

The prosecution team cited the denial of similar motion by the Sandiganbayan first division, which hears the plunder and graft charges against Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and the warning of the fifth division, which handles the case of Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada.

Fifth division chairperson Associate Justice Roland Jurado earlier warned prosecutors of the possible release of Estrada from detention if the motion was granted. Jurado said the original information was used as basis for the issuance of the warrants of arrest against Estrada and his co-accused in the plunder and graft charges.

The prosecution immediately withdrew its motion.

"Events that unfolded in relation to similar motions filed by the prosecution and heard before the first and fifth divisions of the Court have given herein plaintiff pause. Issues rose during said hearings and the processes it could have entailed for all involved to file their respective responsive pleadings; such as comments and oppositions, or even motions, became a consideration," the prosecution said in its motion filed Monday before the third division.

Government prosecutors supposedly want to picture Enrile, Revilla and Estrada as real brains behind the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and not Napoles, the scam's alleged architect.

But the prosecution insisted that the move to amend the charges was only for the form and nothing to do with the substance.

The prosecutors said the court ruling granting their request would further delay the case.

"It is in its interest to expedite matters and ensure the absence of hindrances to the swift conclusion of the case," the motion added.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales reportedly called an emergency meeting last Friday night with the Special Prosecution Panel at the Ombudsman Central Office in Quezon City to withdraw the petition.

The separate motions are aimed at amending the plunder cases against Enrile, Revilla and Estrada to add the phrase "emphasize that the senator was the one who amassed, accumulated, and acquired ill-gotten wealth in connivance or in conspiracy with his co-accused public officer and private individuals."

Lawyers of Napoles criticized and slammed the validity of the Ombudsman's case, saying there should have been no plunder since the original information identified Napoles as the one who profited from the PDAF transactions.

According to Napoles' camp, only a public official may be accused of plunder for amassing ill-gotten wealth of P50 million or more but since the businesswoman is a private individual, the Ombudsman's plunder case has no valid basis. (Sunnex)

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