Sandiganbayan denies again bid of Gigi Reyes for temporary release
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has denied again the bid of Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, who was the chief of staff of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, to be released temporarily in line with the dangers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In its 15-page resolution dated Monday, the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division clarified that the prisoners who were released to avoid outbreaks inside detention facilities — which Reyes mentioned — were actually serving short sentences and not grave charges like plunder, which she is facing.
Reyes repeatedly reasoned out in her motions that she should be allowed temporary freedom despite plunder being a non-bailable case in consideration of the fear that the coronavirus might spread inside detention facilities.
But the Sandiganbayan countered that the releases were made by the Supreme Court and other offices like the Department of Justice without interfering with laws of the land.
Likewise, the release of prisoners in other countries should not be compared to the process in the Philippines, as the country may have a different legal system altogether.
“It is worthy to note that the releases listed by accused- movant Reyes herself in her motion appear to concern prisoners who are serving short sentences or who have been pardoned by their executive heads,” the resolution authored by Third Division chair and Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
“Notably, in the Philippines, both the judiciary, with the Supreme Court at the helm, and the Department of Justice have made similar strides in releasing similarly situated prisoners across the country since the start of the pandemic – all without supplanting existing fundamental laws and legal processes on bail,” it added.
The anti-graft court also said that while it empathize with Reyes’ situation, it had no other choice but to act within the grounds of the law.
“While the Court empathizes with the accused-movant’s fears and concerns regarding her possible exposure to the novel corona virus inside her detention facility, the Court must, unfortunately, act only within the legal framework provided by our fundamental law on bail and recognizance and within the bounds of its jurisdiction,” the court said.
“A pandemic, no matter how serious, does not authorize this Court to craft a new ground for the grant of bail in order to afford relief to the accused-movant,” it noted.
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 convicted scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
The pork barrel scam is a conspiracy where the pork barrel or funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were funneled towards projects of non-government organizations (NGOs) either set up and owned by Napoles.
The Sandiganbayan also reiterated its previous pronouncements that, first, Reyes’s detention facility at the Taguig City Jail has been observing strict health protocols to avoid the spread of the coronavirus; and second, that she did not enjoy the same solid reputation as her co-accused in Enrile.
Unlike Reyes, Enrile has been out on bail in consideration of his advanced age, as various ailments while in detention might pose a threat to his health.
The Sandiganbayan again noted that Enrile had demonstrated respect for legal procedures, and is an individual of high social and political standing.
“To reiterate, accused-movant Reyes can not claim that she enjoys the same solid reputation and social and political standing as petitioner in Enrile who has been an active public figure since the Marcos regime,” the court said.
“Moreover, with respect to this risk, accused-movant Reyes herself furnished this Court with Certifications from the city jail wardens of the Taguig City Jail Female and Male Dormitories. These documents certify to the fact that the dormitories are ‘religiously observing preventive measures and guidelines’ against COVID-19, such as the proper conduct of quarantine procedure to the incoming personnel prior to their entry to the facilities,” it added.
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