Gigi Reyes back to face charges
In a surprise move, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes returned home on Black Saturday to face the music.
The 51-year-old former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile arrived before dawn on Saturday on a Philippine Airlines flight from San Francisco without the knowledge of her former boss, according to her brother, Patrick Gonzales.
“I’m ready to face the charges. I’ve always faced it,” Reyes, a lawyer, told airport reporters on her arrival, referring to the plunder charges against her, Enrile, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles over the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Saturday appealed to Reyes’ patriotism and turn state witness.
“She’ll be acquitted of a crime and at the same time clear her reputation,” Santiago told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “She will also be doing a service to the country,” she said.
“It would be a firsthand account of the culpability of Enrile …. If she applies for state witness and her application is accepted … then Enrile’s goose is cooked,” said Santiago, who has a running feud with Enrile.
In a telephone interview, Gonzales, who previously worked in Enrile’s Senate office, said he was among those who fetched his sister from the United States and accompanied her home.
He also said his sister’s return to the country did not have the blessing of Enrile.
“Definitely not,” he said. “He might have known now because it’s all over the news,” he said. “It was her decision to come home and we don’t have any choice but to support her.”
He said that except for the immediate family, nobody knew about the homecoming, eight months after Reyes left the country. She went to Macau a month after the scandal involving the alleged diversion of lawmakers’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects of nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.
The Inquirer attempted but failed to get a comment from the Enrile camp on Reyes’ abrupt return.
Gonzales declined to answer questions about the possibility of Reyes turning state witness. “She will soon make an official statement, it’s better if it would come from her,” he said.
The Ombudsman said there was sufficient evidence to file the plunder charges—a nonbailable offense punishable by life imprisonment—against the accused in the Sandiganbayan. One of them has offered to turn state witness—Ruby Tuason, a former Malacañang social secretary and confessed Napoles bagman. She told the Senate blue ribbon committee that she delivered millions of pesos in kickbacks to Reyes for Enrile.
Motions for reconsideration of the Ombudsman’s findings are being considered in a process that could take years. This is the first time that senators have been found liable for plunder in the case that has triggered widespread indignation against the pork barrel, including a massive protest in August and a subsequent ruling by the Supreme Court declaring the PDAF unconstitutional.
Daniel Daganzo, head of the National Bureau of Investigation’s foreign liaison division, said the agency had no information if Reyes had applied as a state witness. “We are not privy if there’s one,” he said.
Another NBI source said Reyes’ visa and passport had expired, forcing her to come home. “The chance of her getting a fresh visa could be slim,” the source explained.
President Aquino’s spokesperson, Herminio Coloma, said yesterday he expected those accountable for the scam, including Reyes, “to fully disclose what they know.”
“Their willingness to shed light on the ongoing legal proceedings is vital to our people’s quest for justice,” Coloma said.
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