No temporary freedom for Gigi Reyes as Sandigan rejects her plea
MANILA, Philippines — The anti-graft court has denied the request for temporary release of Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, the former chief-of-staff of ex-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who is facing plunder cases in connection to the so-called pork barrel scam.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division said in a resolution that Reyes is not at risk of contracting COVID-19 since no inmates or personnel within Camp Bagong Diwa have been reported infected by the new coronavirus disease.
Reyes is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa for her alleged role in the pork barrel scam, wherein Enrile allegedly received kickbacks amounting to P172.8 million from Janet Lim Napoles, the convicted mastermind of the multi-million-peso illicit scheme. The pork barrel scam is a conspiracy where public funds, specifically from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), were funneled to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) set up and/or owned by Napoles.
“It is worthy to mention that compared to other detention facilities where there has been transmission of COVID-19 among its detainees and staff, there is no report that there are inmates, or even personnel, of Camp Bagong Diwa who have tested positive for COVID-19,” asserts the resolution penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
“More importantly, there is no positive showing that accused Reyes is in actual or even imminent danger of being infected by the COVID-19,” it added.
The Sandiganbayan noted that Reyes is actually detained in an area separate from other detainees, thus, lowering the possibility of her acquiring COVID-19.
Reyes filed a motion for a provisional release on May 27, basing her request on reports that Camp Bagong Diwa might be dangerous for inmates as congestion poses a greater risk for COVID-19 transmissions. Her plea also argues that although she was only 57 years old, she has several underlying health conditions that make her vulnerable to disease.
She likewise claimed that she has not been receiving treatment for her various ailments like hemifacial spasm since the community quarantine was imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the court noted that if Reyes is complaining about not being checked by her doctors, a check-up and not a provisional release would be the answer.
“Accused Reyes alleges that she has been unable to be monitored by her neurologist and to be administered the required injections for her ailment. However, she has not even specified what these required injections are. Neither has she offered any explanation on why she has purportedly not been administered the same,” the Third Division said.
“At any rate, assuming this to be true, the remedy is definitely not accused Reyes’ provisional release from detention but some other appropriate action on her part to enable her to receive the said treatment,” it added.
The Sandiganbayan pointed out that unlike Enrile, who is out on bail, Reyes does not enjoy the same solid reputation of the former senator, who has complied with various legal proceedings in the past and was never labeled as a flight risk.
The plunder case against 96-year-old Enrile, who also served as defense minister of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, is one of the three major cases that stemmed from the pork barrel scam.
The other cases involved Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and former Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
Revilla was acquitted of plunder in 2018 as the anti-graft court cited the “failure of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt” that he “received, directly or indirectly, the rebates, commission, and kickbacks from his PDAF.”
On the other hand, Estrada’s case remains unresolved up to now. The Sandiganbayan has denied his petition to dismiss the plunder case filed against him.
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