Enrile, Reyes meet in court
Lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes could not restrain her emotions as she sat next to her former boss, detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, during their arraignment in the Sandiganbayan on Friday.
Wearing a yellow blouse and black jeans, Reyes met Enrile for the first time since the antigraft court ordered their arrest on July 4 over their alleged roles in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Like old friends facing the hardest test of their relationship, Enrile and his former aide vowed to hurdle the criminal charges against them, according to one of the senator’s lawyers.
“They were trying to assure each other that they would be able to get over this controversy,” lawyer Eleazar Reyes said when asked by reporters about the topic of the conversation between Enrile and his former chief of staff.
Another lawyer, who stood near the pair, said Enrile also asked Reyes how she was and “if she was feeling cold.”
“I think it was after that somebody handed her a shawl (apparently) to keep her warm,” the lawyer said.
15 counts of graft
Reyes wiped away her tears with a handkerchief while talking with the senator as Dennis Pulma, the division clerk of court, read the allegations contained in the 15 counts of graft brought against them and 47 others by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Despite his physical condition, Enrile stood up as Pulma read each of the charges.
Enrile, martial law enforcer and defense minister during the Marcos dictatorship, is accused of skimming off nearly P173 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotments.
“I am not guilty, your honors. I have not committed any crime,” Enrile said.
Reyes, on the other hand, did not enter a plea, prompting Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, also the chair of the Third Division, to enter a not guilty plea on her behalf.
While talking with Enrile, Reyes was seen pointing to her right eye and cheek, apparently showing him the effects of what her doctor called “right hemifacial spasm.”
She kept her head bowed most of the time while the senator looked at Pulma and appeared to be listening intently to the charges against them.
At one point, Enrile stared at Reyes for a few seconds while she was resting her head on her right hand.
Enrile has been romantically linked with Reyes, who is about 40 years his junior.
In a television interview in March, Cristina Ponce Enrile, his wife of 56 years, admitted that Enrile’s alleged illicit affair with Reyes was the reason why she wanted to file for divorce in the United States.
Enrile has denied Reyes was his girlfriend and said Cristina’s statements in her TV interview were just “a wife’s suspicion.”
Enrile and Reyes were arraigned separately for plunder after Reyes experienced another “panic attack” inside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology lockup in Bicutan, Taguig City.
An eerie silence engulfed the packed courtroom of the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division when Associate Justice Samuel Martires asked Enrile and Reyes to occupy the seats by the table reserved for defense lawyers near the witness stand.
“There’s a reason why I asked (Reyes) to be seated. It’s because she just experienced an anxiety attack, which caused her to hit her head on the wall (of her detention cell),” Martires told the lawyers and the other accused who were in the courtroom.
“Anyway, she is still a lawyer just like a senator,” Martires added.
Assisted by his lawyers, the frail, 90-year-old Enrile slowly walked toward the defense table and took the leftmost seat moments after the proceedings started at 9 a.m.
Reyes, who also looked weak, sat by his right side.
Picture of gloom
Once described as the “24th senator” for the influence she wielded in the Senate, Reyes was a picture of gloom as she spoke intermittently with the senator during the three-hour court proceedings.
Detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the suspected architect of the pork barrel scam, sat behind them after Martires asked her if she wanted to be seated.
The court also entered a not guilty plea for Jose Antonio Evangelista, Reyes’ former deputy, after he refused to enter a plea on 15 counts of graft.
Anacleto Diaz, Reyes’ lawyer, said they opted not to enter a plea because their petition questioning Reyes’ indictment was pending in the Supreme Court.
“We petitioned the Supreme Court to nullify the resolution of the Ombudsman finding probable cause because we have been deprived of due process of law,” Diaz said in an interview.
“Until now, we have yet to get a copy of the sworn statements (of the witnesses) despite (our) repeated requests,” he added.
The lawyers of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and members of his staff—Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare—declined to enter a plea for their clients because they had filed a motion for reconsideration of their indictment.
Dennis Cunanan, former director general of the Technological Resource Center, pleaded not guilty on two counts of graft.
The court entered a not guilty plea on behalf of former National Agribusiness Corp. officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Gacal after they, too, declined to enter a plea.
Also on Friday, Reyes asked the Sandiganbayan to allow her to use a laptop with Internet connection and printer in her detention cell.
In a seven-page motion, Reyes said having a portable computer and Wi-Fi would help her prepare for her defense.
If allowed, Reyes said she would access the Internet only under the strict supervision of the jail authorities and on such terms and conditions the court may impose.
In seeking the court’s approval for her request, Reyes noted that the courts in Maryland, Hawaii and Alaska had been allowing inmates to use computers in their “legal research.”
“Even hardened terrorist suspects detained by the United States military at the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba are allowed access to laptop computers to enable them to prepare for their defense,” Reyes said.
Defense lawyer Anacleto Diaz claimed members of the defense team were having difficulty bringing documents to Reyes and discussing legal strategy with her in her detention cell.
“Camp Bagong Diwa is not that near. All that wasted time and effort can be prevented if (Reyes) has Internet access. We can shoot off questions to her and she can immediately respond (online),” he said.
Brain scan for Reyes
The court allowed Reyes to undergo a brain scan at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) after she reportedly accidentally hit her head on the concrete wall of her prison cell when she suffered an “anxiety attack” last month.
Pulma said the court directed Reyes’ lawyers to coordinate with Dr. Jose Gonzales, PGH director, regarding the schedule of the medical examination.
In her petition, Reyes asked the court to allow her to undergo magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance angiogram to check the uncontrolled twitching of her right eye and cheek.
Pulma said Reyes and her lawyers should first secure an order from the court authorizing her checkup at PGH.
In a four-page resolution written by Cabotaje-Tang, the court said all the medical procedures Reyes needed should be “all at the personal expense of accused Reyes.”
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