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The legal savvy of JPE

(Article Published in the Rappler, Jun 30,2014)

       In his petition before the Sandiganbayan, Senator Juan Ponce Enrile invokes justifications limited to himself

       Juan Ponce Enrile had seemed advantaged already that his pork barrel scam cases were raffled to the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan where sits Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires. Martires had exposed to the max, in his creative ponencia of an earlier resolution of the behest loan case against Roberto V. Ongpin et al, his views on how a Motion to Quash may be resolved by a court. Martires thereat showed that a court, if it wants to, could go the extra mile and, taking up the cudgels for the defense, rip up the case of the People of the Philippines: by evaluating evidence before it was formally presented; by pointing out inconsistencies in the People’s theory; even by capitalizing on what appeared to be confusion in the special prosecutor’s mind of basic concepts of Legal Accounting 101. All prior to a full-blown trial.

       But Juan Ponce Enrile, the veteran lawyer that he is, was savvy enough not to assume that merely because Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires had taken in the Ongpin case a position favourable to the accused, the good associate justice would be consistent and take the same view with respect to him. After all, the sauce for the gander named Ongpin is not necessarily the sauce for the goose named Enrile.

       Enrile had grounds for his reservations on the integrity of Martines’ legal convictions. In the Ongpin case, Martires on July 26, 2013, concurred in a resolution issued by the Third Division of the Sandiganbayan in CC No. SB-13-CRM-0105-0106. That resolution, in part, reads: “...The test for correctness of the ground under Section 3(a) of Rule 117, that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, is the sufficiency of the averments in the information; that is, whether the facts alleged, if hypothetically admitted, would establish the essential elements of the offense as defined by law without considering matters aliunde...”

       The court in that resolution ordered, “after having personally, independently and judiciously examined and evaluated the resolution and order of the Office of the Ombudsman...together with the records and evidence to support the same,” the issuance of the warrants of arrest against all the accused. Martires concurred in that July 26 resolution.

       Ongpin and his co-accused filed their expected motions for reconsideration. On September 12, 2013, the same justices, this time assembled in what was named a “Special Third Division” (how and why the Third Division became a Special Third Division are stories not necessary to relate at this time) refused to change their view. They unanimously ruled that “These defences and the other arguments presented by the accused movants [in their motions for reconsideration] are better threshed out during the trial proper. Maneuvers to prolong the running of the cases before the court are frowned upon.”

       Needless to stress, Martires concurred with that September 12, 2013 resolution that reiterated the court’s assessment of July 26 that the evidence of the Ombudsman indeed showed that probable cause did exist against Ongpin et al.

       But, to the surprise of those not-in-the know, Martires on May 28, 2014, nearly a year after his affirmation that probable cause against Ongpin et did exist, executed a legal somersault. Notwithstanding the two earlier positions he had concurred in, Martires in his ponencia wrote: “...a closer examination of the records reveals weaknesses that cannot stand the test of judicial scrutiny. While it appears that each allegation is supported by evidentiary proof, the proof presented...contradicted the same or another allegation that is part of the whole theory proferred by the complainants.”

       He thus asserted, “This case should have been dismissed at the preliminary investigation stage.” And as if to kick the People while it was down, criticized the filing, by saying: “Pressures of public opinion however dictate that in order to avoid the brunt and pain of criticism it would be most convenient to pass unto the Court the responsibility to dismiss these cases.”

       The dismissal of the Ongpin case, as relayed in a prior piece, is currently subject of a motion for reconsideration and thus still beyond the purview of public comment.

       Nevertheless, this dismissal of the case of Roberto V. Ongpin, it is likely, is known to Juan Ponce Enrile, his fellow stalwart during the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Enrile thus could have simply fashioned his own pleadings after the latest rendition of Martires’ thinking. But Juan Ponce Enrile is too smart for that. There is no sense in putting your eggs in the one basket of Martires who had flip-floped.

       So, what did Juan Ponce Enrile do, on his own behalf, to save his own skin, rumoured to have been renewed by stem cell theraphy? He invoked, among other reasons, justifications limited to himself.

       On June 13, 2014, Juan Ponce Enrile filed a 53-page “URGENT (all motions, in the mind of the filers, are of course, URGENT!) OMNIBUS MOTION”. Shifting through the legal goobledygook, one reads the firm assertion that “Enrile is not a flight risk. Enrile is already 90 years old, with poor and frail physical condition requiring constant medical attention.”

       This confession of poor physical state is attested to by three medical certificates.

       Dr. Claver P. Ramos, M.D., certifies, “to whom it may concern,” that Juan Ponce Enrile “has diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, essential hypertension, extensive coronary artery calcification in the right coronary, left anterior descending and left circumflex, multifocal ventricular premature beats, episodes of bradycardia, colonic diverticulosis, thorasic and lumbar spondylosis, L4-L5, alpha thalassemia, and macular degeneration, chronic lacunar ischemic zones, scattered small luminal plaques, of proximal middle segments of basilar artery, both horizontal and insular opercular branches of middle cerebral arteries.”

       Dr. Amadeo Veloso, Jr. M.D., for his part, states that “Senator Enrile is diagnosed to have Age-Related Macular Degeneration, neovascular (wet) type, on both eyes.”

       And completing the trio, Dr. Clemente C. Gatmaitan, Jr. M.D. affirms that Juan Ponce Enrile, “...90 year (sic) old, is under the medical care of Dr. Claver P. Ramos and the undersigned.” He continues:

       “Diagnosis: 1) Chronic hypertension
       2) Elevated fasting blood sugar
       3) Status post lithotripsy for nephrolithiasis (2004)
       4) Mild anemia,probably nutritional”

       What court in its right mind (mindful or not of public opinion, one way or the other) would ignore such geriatric plea?

       Make haste, please, Honorable Third Division, and forthwith order the confinement of Juan Ponce Enrile at the St. Luke’s in the Global City where lovely nurses could attend to his needs and his good friend Gigi stand guard.

       (Reynaldo "Gerry" Geronimo is a partner at the Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law office. He is known as The Trust Guru and maintains a website, www.thetrustguru.com.)

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