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Juan Ponce Enrile v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 213455, 11 August 2015.

En Banc

[BRION, J.]

The Office of the Ombudsman filed an Information for plunder against Enrile, Jessica Lucila Reyes, Janet Lim Napoles, Ronald John Lim, and John Raymund de Asis before the Sandiganbayan.

The Information reads:

x x x x

In 2004 to 2010 or thereabout, in the Philippines, and within this Honorable Court’s jurisdiction, above-named accused JUAN PONCE ENRILE, then a Philippine Senator, JESSICA LUCILA G. REYES, then Chief of Staff of Senator Enrile’s Office, both public officers, committing the offense in relation to their respective offices, conspiring with one another and with JANET LIM NAPOLES, RONALD JOHN LIM, and JOHN RAYMUND DE ASIS, did then and there willfully, unlawfully, and criminally amass, accumulate, and/or acquire ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least ONE HUNDRED SEVENTY TWO MILLION EIGHT HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED PESOS (Php172,834,500.00) through a combination or series of overt criminal acts, as follows:

  1. by repeatedly receiving from NAPOLES and/or her representatives LIM, DE ASIS, and others, kickbacks or commissions under the following circumstances: before, during and/or after the project identification, NAPOLES gave, and ENRILE and/or REYES received, a percentage of the cost of a project to be funded from ENRILE’S Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), in consideration of ENRILE’S endorsement, directly or through REYES, to the appropriate government agencies, of NAPOLES’ non-government organizations which became the recipients and/or target implementors of ENRILE’S PDAF projects, which duly-funded projects turned out to be ghosts or fictitious, thus enabling NAPOLES to misappropriate the PDAF proceeds for her personal gain;
  2. by taking undue advantage, on several occasions, of their official positions, authority, relationships, connections, and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice, of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.

CONTRARY TO LAW.

Enrile filed a motion for bill of particulars before the Sandiganbayan. On the same date, he filed a motion for deferment of arraignment since he was to undergo medical examination at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

The Court denied Enrile’s motion for bill of particulars.

ISSUE: Is a Motion to Quash the proper remedy if the information is vague or indefinite resulting in the serious violation of Enrile’s constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him?

HELD: NO. When allegations in an Information are vague or indefinite, the remedy of the accused is not a motion to quash, but a motion for a bill of particulars.

The purpose of a bill of particulars is to supply vague facts or allegations in the complaint or information to enable the accused to properly plead and prepare for trial. It presupposes a valid Information, one that presents all the elements of the crime charged, albeit under vague terms. Notably, the specifications that a bill of particulars may supply are only formal amendments to the complaint or Information. Thus, if the Information is lacking, a court should take a liberal attitude towards its granting and order the government to file a bill of particulars elaborating on the charges. Doubts should be resolved in favor of granting the bill to give full meaning to the accused’s Constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Notably, the government cannot put the accused in the position of disclosing certain overt acts through the Information and withholding others subsequently discovered, all of which it intends to prove at the trial. This is the type of surprise a bill of particulars is designed to avoid. The accused is entitled to the observance of all the rules designated to bring about a fair verdict. This becomes more relevant in the present case where the crime charged carries with it the severe penalty of capital punishment and entails the commission of several predicate criminal acts involving a great number of transactions spread over a considerable period of time. Notably, conviction for plunder carries with it the penalty of capital punishment; for this reason, more process is due, not less. When a person’s life interest – protected by the life, liberty, and property language recognized in the due process clause – is at stake in the proceeding, all measures must be taken to ensure the protection of those fundamental rights.

While both the motion to dismiss the Information and the motion for bill of particulars involved the right of an accused to due process, the enumeration of the details desired in Enrile’s supplemental opposition to issuance of a warrant of arrest and for dismissal of information and in his motion for bill of particulars are different viewed particularly from the prism of their respective objectives. In the former, Enrile took the position that the Information did not state a crime for which he can be convicted; thus, the Information is void; he alleged a defect of substance. In the latter, he already impliedly admits that the Information sufficiently alleged a crime but is unclear and lacking in details that would allow him to properly plead and prepare his defense; he essentially alleged here a defect of form. Note that in the former, the purpose is to dismiss the Information for its failure to state the nature and cause of the accusation against Enrile; while the details desired in the latter (the motion for bill of particulars) are required to be specified in sufficient detail because the allegations in the Information are vague, indefinite, or in the form of conclusions and will not allow Enrile to adequately prepare his defense unless specifications are made.That every element constituting the offense had been alleged in the Information does not preclude the accused from requesting for more specific details of the various acts or omissions he is alleged to have committed. The request for details is precisely the function of a bill of particulars. Hence, while the information may be sufficient for purposes of stating the cause and the crime an accused is charged, the allegations may still be inadequate for purposes of enabling him to properly plead and prepare for trial.

We DIRECT the People of the Philippines to SUBMIT, within a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) days from finality of this Decision, with copy furnished to Enrile, a bill of particulars containing the facts sought that we herein rule to be material and necessary. The bill of particulars shall specifically contain the following:

  1. The particular overt act/s alleged to constitute the “combination or series of overt criminal acts” charged in the Information.
  2. A breakdown of the amounts of the “kickbacks or commissions” allegedly received, stating how the amount of P172,834,500.00 was arrived at.
  3. A brief description of the ‘identified’ projects where kickbacks or commissions were received.
  4. The approximate dates of receipt, “in 2004 to 2010 or thereabout,” of the alleged kickbacks and commissions from the identified projects. At the very least, the prosecution should state the year when the kickbacks and transactions from the identified projects were received.
  5. The name of Napoles’ non-government organizations (NGOs) which were the alleged “recipients and/or target implementors of Enrile’s PDAF projects.”
  6. The government agencies to whom Enrile allegedly endorsed Napoles’ NGOs. The particular person/s in each government agency who facilitated the transactions need not be named as a particular.

All particulars prayed for that are not included in the above are hereby denied.

 

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