MANILA – A year after being detained for graft and plunder charges, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile returned to the Senate. Granted bail by the Supreme Court, the 91-year-old senator was expected to resume his position as minority leader.
Enrile surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in July last year, with criminal charges filed against him for his alleged involvement in the multi-billion pork barrel scam where he amassed millions in commissions from Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus foundations.
He was then ordered under hospital arrest at the Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Crame. While detained, the elderly senator questioned the Sandiganbayan’s resolutions which did not permit him to post bail and did not grant him a bill of particulars. The Supreme Court later on reversed the antigraft court’s rulings.
Although Wednesday was a holiday in Quezon City, the Sandiganbayan opened its offices to receive a copy of the High Court’s resolution and to give Enrile the chance to post bail. The senator was immediately released from custody.
Senators were excited to see Enrile back but it was though he was never away as he actively fulfilled his duties even while in detention sans attending sessions.
“He has never abandoned his work, anyway. He continued to perform the functions of a senator except attending the sessions,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said.
Some senators, on the other hand, saw Enrile’s return as a possible ‘game changer’ for the administration and even suspected that he would take on the leadership of the opposition.
“Let’s just say it’s a game changer as far as some internal dynamics or even external dynamics of the political environment are concerned. We’ll see how it goes. It can work for the opposition, it can work against the administration, so we’ll see,” Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said.
Enrile’s freedom, however, was only temporary as he would still undergo trial for his purported role in misappropriating his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation to receive kickbacks from Napoles’ fake projects. The senator repeatedly denied accusations hurled against him.
“The court granted the petition for bail of petitioner Juan Ponce Enrile, subject to the terms and conditions to be specified by the court in its order, which will be forthcoming,” Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said in a press conference, withholding details of the court ruling.
The High Court reportedly allowed Enrile to post bail for humanitarian purposes. The decision however, was not unanimous. Eight justices voted in favor of the senator’s petition while four dissented and one inhibited.
Aside from Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla were also detained in connection with the pork barrel scam. The two remained detained but also sought to post bail.