MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile was brought to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila again yesterday for another round of medical tests.
The results will be the basis for approval or denial of his request for continued hospital confinement while undergoing trial for plunder at the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.
Enrile, 90, was ordered arrested last June after the Office of the Ombudsman indicted him for alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam or misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
But instead of being committed to a detention facility like the Philippine National Police custodial center in Came Crame, Quezon City, the Sandiganbayan allowed him to be placed at the PNP General Hospital (PNPGH) at the same police camp.
On orders of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz, he was brought to the PGH last Monday for his first round of medical checkup.
Enrile also went to the Asian Eye Institute in Makati City on Tuesday and Wednesday to undergo an emergency eye procedure because of blood clots.
The anti-graft court had directed PGH doctors to examine Enrile and determine his state of health so that magistrates can rule on where he should be confined.
Enrile is accused of pocketing P172 million in kickbacks or commissions from alleged pork barrel fund scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Prosecution witness Benhur Luy has admitted to receiving kickbacks or commissions worth as much as P4 million from his cousin and former boss Napoles, now detained at the Taguig City Jail female dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan.
Returning to the witness stand yesterday, he told the Sandiganbayan First Division that he also benefited from the scheme of using the PDAF of lawmakers to finance fictitious projects by bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).
But Luy said he received minimal amounts even though he was made president of the fake NGO Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI) and was supposed to receive one percent of the total amount of pork barrel funds for his foundation.
“If you sum it all up, I received a net of P3 million to P4 million from 2004 to 2012,” he told the anti-graft court under cross-examination by defense lawyers.
Luy is testifying in bail hearings against Napoles, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and the latter’s former chief of staff Richard Cambe who are facing plunder charges.
Revilla and Cambe are now detained at Camp Crame.
Luy said as NGO president, he is only given a maximum of P50,000 per project by Napoles, but he does not really have ill feelings against his boss since they are relatives and he was an employee of JLN Corp.
He also confirmed that Napoles had ordered him and other JLN employees to forge numerous signatures of supposed farmer beneficiaries of PDAF-funded projects using both their right and left hands.
“Madam said we should make our penmanship ugly so it would look like the signatures of farmers,” he told the Sandiganbayan.
“She even wanted us to just print our thumb marks over the names of the beneficiaries,” he said, eliciting laughter from those listening to his testimony.
Again emphasizing that everything they did was on orders of Napoles, he said they needed to fake signatures for liquidation purposes.
According to him, Napoles’ children Jo Christine and James Christopher and even their co-accused in the plunder case Ronald John Lim and John Raymond de Asis would sometimes help forge signatures because they were ordered to.
In his testimony last week, Luy told the Sandiganbayan how Napoles gets promised a bigger amount of PDAF but eventually gets less, which is why she only allows P5 million in advances before actual pork barrel fund releases are cleared.
“Lugi naman si Madam ‘nun (madam was shortchanged),” he said, referring to what would happen if the businesswoman allows lawmakers to advance big amounts that might be more than the 50 percent in rebates that the legislator would later be entitled to receive.
Luy described Revilla as “mabait” in the sense that he was not pushy when asking for his commissions, and the senator even allowed the money to be given in installments.
Even the driver of Napoles has sought relief from the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan.
In a 60-page petition filed last Aug. 8, De Asis asked the high court to recall the arrest warrant issued by the anti-graft court and also order the dismissal of cases against him.
Through lawyer Kristel Concepcion Ona, De Asis alleged that the Office of the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in approving his indictment in connection to the scam.
De Asis was indicted for allegedly being president of another fake NGO, the Kaupdanan para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (KPMFI) that was used by Napoles in her alleged scheme.
The petitioner noted that he was charged with plunder merely based on the allegation that he was among the persons who delivered money from the office to the house of Napoles and by picking up checks and depositing these in a bank.
He claimed that his acts of picking up money for Napoles or collecting checks for deposit to the bank or delivering packages for Napoles were part of his functions as Napoles’ driver-messenger.
“As far as petitioner is concerned, he was only performing his duties in good faith as driver/messenger/janitor. Petitioner cannot be held criminally liable for fulfilling his legal duties or office,” read the petition.
“Apart from merely stating that petitioner De Asis was named as the president KPMFI, there was no other allegation, much less proof, to substantiate the charge against petitioner for plunder,” it added.
De Asis said the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation failed to show proof that he connived with any public officer, amassed and accumulated ill-gotten wealth and that the aggregate amount of the ill-gotten wealth was at least P50 million.
“Apart from failing to show that petitioner De Asis directly or indirectly and knowingly took part in the commission of the foregoing acts, with criminal intent, the NBI complaint also failed to show that petitioner in fact conspired with the other respondents in the case,” he added. – With Edu Punay