Santiago: Enrile not yet off the hook

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

MANILA -- Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said Saturday that the mere presence of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile during the times when his former chief of staff, Jessica "Gigi" Reyes, met with Ruby Tuason is enough proof of a conspiracy, and proves Enrile's guilt "to a moral certainty."

"A conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it," she said, citing the Revised Penal Code.

Santiago said that the law merely requires the accused to perform an overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy.


She quoted the 1996 case of Pecho v. People, where the Supreme Court ruled: "Such an overt act may consist of active participation in the actual commission of the crime itself, or of moral assistance to his co-conspirators by being present at the time of the commission of the crime or by exerting moral ascendancy over the other co-conspirators by moving them to execute or implement the conspiracy."

Santiago said that during her interpellation of Tuason, she purposely left Tuason alone even when the latter was insisting on Enrile's silence during the meetings, because Santiago did not want Tuason to know that she had just revealed important testimony crucial to the conviction of Enrile.

"On TV and in novels, the hero always makes a big fuss when he scores a point during cross-examination. In reality the trial lawyer prefers to accept the testimony without fuss, so that the witness will not be able to change the damaging testimony in the course of the cross-examination. Then the lawyer pounces on it by emphasizing the damaging testimony only when he submits his final memorandum to the judge," she said.

Santiago said that she allowed Tuason to go on, without debating her on why Enrile was allegedly silent.

"I was confident that Tuason had already violated the rules on conspiracy under the Penal Code. I pointed this out at my press con later," Santiago said.

She said it is a settled rule that "it is not indispensable that a co-conspirator should take a direct hand in the commission of a felony," citing the 1993 case of People v. Camaddo.

"Even assuming for the sake of argument that Enrile was just sitting or drinking coffee or smiling fatuitously, his mere presence is sufficient to convince the court to a moral certainty that he was the mastermind pulling the strings of Reyes, so that they could profit from the illicit scam," Santiago said.

Tuason, in her affidavit, said, "Enrile would join us, when we are almost done, for a cup of coffee... He did not stay long. After coffee, he would leave and sometimes he would come to pick up Attorney Gigi Reyes."

Santiago said that although Tuason stood pat on her testimony that during those meetings, Enrile did not say anything, still Tuason's categorical statement that Enrile was present is sufficient to pin down Enrile, under the principle of conspiracy in criminal law.

"It is now obvious that Tuason was covering up for Enrile, so that the entire criminal liability for plunder could be shifted to Reyes alone. That is devious of Tuason, and heartless of Enrile. He is ready to sacrifice Reyes to save himself," Santiago said.

Santiago said that even if Tuason stated that Enrile did not say anything inculpatory, the mere fact that Enrile sat at a table with the conspirators Tuason and Reyes is sufficient proof that he approved of their illicit transactions over the pork barrel.

"In the first place, why would a senator go out of his way to pick up his chief of staff? It is widely known that Enrile kept Reyes as his concubine. Why would he pick up his concubine when she was dealing with a conduit for illegal pork barrel releases? Human experience teaches that there was no reason for Enrile to be present, unless it was to assure Tuason that he approved of the illegal transaction, and that he authorized his chief of staff to act on his behalf."

At a press conference following the Thursday's Senate hearing, Santiago told the media: "If we follow Tuason's line of reasoning that Enrile did not say anything, still we cannot accept Tuason's theory that Enrile was blameless. If he did not say anything in favor of the illicit transaction, then by the same line of reasoning, Enrile should have said something against the transaction. If he disapproved, he should have remonstrated against his subordinate, and even slap her silly for dragging his name. But he did not, proving he is guilty by conspiracy." (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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