DOJ ready to probe Enrile’s ‘crimes’
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Justice on Friday said it was ready to conduct investigations into the alleged crimes committed by Senate minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, which Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago listed in a privilege speech last Wednesday.
Saying she was speaking “off-hand,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, said the DOJ could look into the allegations pertaining to smuggling, illegal logging and online gambling at the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza).
Santiago had written the DOJ to call for the investigation of Enrile for alleged involvement in various crimes such as smuggling, illegal logging, gambling, as well as the deaths and disappearances of thousands of people during the martial law years when Enrile was defense minister. Enrile is already facing plunder charges in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
De Lima said she had received Santiago’s letter but would review the senator’s privilege speech as she (De Lima) did not hear it in its entirety.
“I want to go over that (speech) first and and then look into those (charges) we could really have investigated at this point,” the Secretary said.
She said investigations on alleged online gambling at the Ceza were started by the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and are still underway.
“I remember in the time of Secretary Robredo the Philippine National Police had undertaken operations against online gambling [which were being justified by respondents] on the basis of a license issued at Ceza. Unfortunately, they (respondents) secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the lower courts and, in fact, what happened was that it was the law enforcers who were charged. The reverse thing happened,” De Lima recounted.
She said she remembered issuing a legal opinion about the matter upon Robredo’s request. She had said the application of the TRO should only apply within the Ceza zone or in Cagayan province, at the most.
“It can’t be that the [online gambling operators who were] caught in other areas [outside Ceza] could use the TRO. I’ll review that legal opinion again. I have also asked for a status report from the Office of the Solicitor General about those cases. In that aspect, we have begun our [investigation]. We will scrutinize it,” she said.
De Lima added that a case about the validity of the TRO was still pending either at the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court.
As for Enrile’s alleged martial law-related offenses, De Lima said she would have to think it over.
“We will evaluate it first because even if we’re willing to [investigate] maybe the chance of uncovering those things would become remote and it might become difficult because of the long time that has passed. But of course, while it can be investigated, we will investigate,” she added.
In her speech, Santiago quoted the rebel Communist Party of the Philippines which cited Enrile as the hatchet man of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and whose “hands are forever stained with the blood of close to 4,000 people ‘salvaged’ during Marcos’ reign of terror.”
He also sought to deny bail and other constitutional rights to arrested student activists, she said, citing a case she personally handled as a judge in those days.
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