Lawmakers seek house arrest for Enrile
MANILA, Philippines–Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Saturday said he would support a move by the minority bloc in the House of Representatives to formally ask the Sandiganbayan to place Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile under house arrest on humanitarian grounds.
Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora and Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III will be filing a resolution on Monday for the chamber “to express its collective sense by pleading for mercy and compassion” on behalf of the 91-year-old senator.
But Belmonte said it would be up to the antigraft court to decide whether or not to heed the House resolution. “It’s the court’s discretion, not Congress. His lawyers, I assume, are making the proper pleadings,” he said in a text message.
State prosecutors earlier opposed the house-arrest proposal, arguing that the prosecution had already given the senator some consideration when they allowed him to be detained at the Philippine National Police General Hospital.
Enrile, who has been detained at the PNP hospital since July last year, contracted pneumonia and was rushed to the Makati Medical Center on Thursday.
Doctors said he had been suffering from a fever since Tuesday, at times coughing up blood, which prompted his transfer to the private hospital in Makati barely two weeks after celebrating his 91st birthday.
Enrile, who has been charged with plunder in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam, was placed under hospital arrest because of his advanced age and uncontrolled hypertension.
“Senator Enrile’s advanced age and current state of health require certain medical procedures and facilities to ensure his continued well-being,” a draft of the House resolution read in part.
Zamora and Albano quoted the PNP health service spokesperson as saying in news reports that the PNP hospital “lacks the necessary facilities to properly address Senator Enrile’s condition.”
Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday called the government prosecutors “cold and callous” for their refusal to allow house arrest for Enrile.
“It opens the government to charges that it lacks compassion for the sick and elderly,” Binay said in a statement.
Binay said the government’s position reinforces “the widely held view of selective justice under the present administration.”
“It invites criticism that political opponents are treated harshly,” Binay said.
“Senator Enrile is 91 years old. He needs medical attention for several ailments and medical conditions that go with his advanced age. His ongoing bout with pneumonia shows the fragility of his physical state. House arrest for him would be the compassionate thing to do,” he said.
Compassion for GMA too
Binay also asked state prosecutors to show some compassion for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City on plunder charges in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence funds during her term.
“She is also of frail health. Her petition for house arrest is being opposed by government prosecutors and her case has barely moved in court,” said Binay, who was an arch critic of Arroyo and her presidency.
“The fact that the former president is a political opponent should not deprive her of the compassion that should be extended to all detainees similarly situated, regardless of political affiliation,” he said.–With a report from Niña P. Calleja
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