MANILA, Philippines - Senate Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III yesterday withdrew a Senate resolution that he and Sen. Gregorio Honasan filed Monday that seeks to express the intent of senators that they support the continued detention of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada at the Philippine National Police (PNP) detention cells in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Sotto said he got legal advice from some well-meaning friends, who recommended that the resolution should first be reviewed.
Citing the constitutional right that an accused is deemed innocent until proven guilty, Sotto and Honasan have filed Senate Resolution 798 that would express the Senate’s consent to allow the three senators to be detained at Camp Crame for the remainder of the trial at the Sandiganbayan on plunder and graft charges filed against them in connection with the pork barrel scam.
The reportedly ailing Enrile is temporarily detained at the PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame, while Estrada and Revilla are locked up at the PNP Custodial Center also in Crame.
“I thought it would be best to review it first, compare it to the other resolutions before, like in the case of Senator Trillanes, so that it might not be misinterpreted or misunderstood as the Senate interfering with judicial proceedings,” Sotto said.
Trillanes, a former Navy officer, had been elected senator in 2007 while he was still detained for a pending mutiny case filed against him and other rebel soldiers who took over the Oakwood building in Makati in 2003 to protest alleged rampant corruption in the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
For her part, Sen. Cynthia Villar said she does not see any problem if the Senate would pass a resolution that would allow the three senators’ continued detention in Camp Crame.
“I’m always supportive of the welfare of our colleagues in the Senate. It would be expected at the Senate that we would be kind with our fellow senators. And whether the Sandiganbayan will listen to us is another story. Personally, it’s not party stand or what, but you have to be kind to your fellow senators,” she added.
Estrada also asked the Sandiganbayan not to consider transferring him to a regular jail from the PNP custodial center.
“He is an incumbent senator of the Republic of the Philippines, having served as such since 2004. He is a son of a former president and a member of the former first family. He was a mayor of the city of San Juan for many years,” said his lawyers led by Jose Flaminiano.
Estrada said in a 12-page opposition to a motion to transfer detention filed by ombudsman prosecutors that those who insist on putting him in an ordinary jail wish to penalize him for a crime that has yet to be proven and of which he is still presumed innocent.
His lawyers said Estrada’s present detention inside Camp Crame adequately serves the purposes of the Sandiganbayan to have him detained while undergoing trial.
The three justices of the Sandiganbayan Third Division which is handling the plunder cases of Janet Lim-Napoles and Enrile inspected yesterday the detention cell of the businesswoman in Camp Bagong Diwa.
A convoy of vehicles ferrying Third Division Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz arrived at Camp Bagong Diwa at about 4:40 p.m. Reporters were barred from entering the camp and Third Division executive clerk of court Dennis Pulma said the justices saw Napoles and fellow detainee lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff, but did not talk to them.
Pulma said Napoles and Reyes were both resting when the justices arrived.
She said Reyes and Napoles are held in adjacent rooms, separated by a concrete wall at the ground floor of the dormitory where the BJMP office is also located.
Pulma said male inmates occupy the second and third floors of the building while the fourth floor houses the female inmates.
Pulma said the inspection of the detention cells is part of the duties of the justices. – With Michael Punongbayan, Mike Frialde