The Supreme Court Tuesday dismissed the charge of rebellion with murder against opposition Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, a setback to President Corazon Aquino's campaign to quell a right-wing insurgency.
The decision forces prosecutors to decide whether to return to a civilian criminal court and file a simple case of rebellion against Enrile, who was ordered freed on $4,500 bail March 6 after a week in detention pending a review of the validity of the charges.The 15-member court, voting 11-2, upheld a 1956 decision that the crime of rebellion cannot be combined with other criminal offenses. Two members were abroad and did not vote.
Chief Justice Marcelo Fernan told reporters the decision applies to 23 people led by Enrile charged with "rebellion with murder and frustrated murder" in the coup attempt last Dec. 1-9.
At least 119 people were killed and more than 500 wounded in the uprising, the sixth Aquino has crushed since taking power in a civilian-backed military revolt that ousted 20-year dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986.
Rebellion is punishable by six to 12 years imprisonment and bail is allowed. In rebellion with murder, prosecutors claim the higher penalty of life imprisonment imposed on murder stands and carries no bail.