Legal Consultant and former President of the Senate Juan Ponce Enrile VOLTAIRE F. DOMINGO/JOSEP VIDAL/SENATE PRIB

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday gave former Senate President and now Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile 15 days, or until April 17, to file a motion for the outright dismissal of his case of corruption in connection with the alleged embezzlement of his “pork barrel funds” from 2004 to 2010.

Enrile, who did not appear in court and was represented by his lawyer Jecko Bello, chose to file an objection to the taking of evidence without court authorization during the defense's initial trial of the case with 46 other co-accused, including his former chief of staff. Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes office.

Enrile and Reyes are being tried in the Third Division of the anti-corruption court on 15 corruption charges, in addition to a separate plunder charge, for allegedly pocketing more than P172 million in payments from the former senator's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) covering the years 2004 to 2010.

READ: WHAT HAPPENED BEFORE: The P10 Billion Barrel of Pork Scam

The presentation of the challenge to the taking of evidence without authorization from the court means that Enrile wants to end the presentation of witnesses and proceed with the resolution of his case, claiming that the prosecution's evidence against him is insufficient.

Charges will be dropped

If the court grants his challenge to the evidence, the charges against him will be dropped. But if it is dismissed, the hearings will continue.

Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the PDAF scam, is also a defendant in the corruption case. She is currently detained at the Women's Correctional Institute for previous convictions.

In September 2023, the Sandiganbayan also allowed Enrile to file an objection to the evidence in his looting case. But a month later, the court said it would resolve his request “simultaneously or together with the main decision, after the presentation of evidence from the other accused”.

READ: Enrile allowed to file dispute in case of pig scam

The ongoing cases before the anti-corruption court involving the multibillion-dollar pork barrel fraud stemmed from the plunder and corruption charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in June 2014 against Enrile, and then-fellow senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. .

In December 2018, the court's first special division cleared Revilla of the looting but convicted his legislative officer, Richard Cambe, as well as Napoles.

On January 19 of this year, the Fifth Division acquitted Estrada of looting, but convicted him of the less serious crimes of direct and indirect bribery.

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Both Revilla and Estrada are back in the Senate, after being re-elected in the 2019 and 2022 polls, respectively. INQ