SC on Gigi Reyes’ case: Nine years is far too long in detention
MANILA, Philippines — Nine years is far too long in detention pending the resolution of a criminal case, the Supreme Court (SC) First Division said in a resolution that allowed the temporary release from detention of Gigi Reyes, the former chief-of-staff of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Reyes has been in detention since July 2014 after the Sandiganbayan ordered her arrest for the crime of plunder, a non-bailable offense in connection with the P172.8-million kickbacks allegedly received from Janet Lim Napoles who was already convicted of plunder for the same scheme in a separate case.
In 2021, Reyes went to the Supreme Court in a petition for habeas corpus, saying she had been in detention for so long without any sign of being freed soon.
The SC said while Reyes’ detention is based on a court order, her prolonged detention, without any progress on the case against her, is considered “vexatious, capricious, and oppressive.”
The case for plunder was filed against Reyes, Enrile, and Napoles on June 5, 2014. Reyes said the Sandiganbayan issued two pre-trial orders despite her camp’s objection while the prosecution marked a piece of evidence wrong. She said the trial on her case started only last March 3, 2022, eight years after the case was filed against her.
A writ of habeas corpus is a remedy applicable to cases of illegal confinement or detention where a person is deprived of his or her liberty or where the rightful custody of any person is withheld from the person entitled thereto.
The SC said habeas corpus is also given to an accused whose right to a speedy trial has been violated.
But the SC clarified that the lengthened proceedings were not entirely the prosecution’s fault because Reyes has also filed several petitions. Still, the prosecution failed to justify the delay on its part while Reyes cited specific situations during the trial to support her claim that her right to a speedy trial had been violated.
“If petitioner (Reyes) were to wait for a final judgment before seeking effective relief, then it might be too late for her to genuinely enjoy her liberty. By then, justice delayed would truly be justice denied,” the SC said.
Meanwhile, it assured that the principal case, which is the plunder case, will proceed independently.
“What is secured is merely the petitioner’s provisional liberty due to vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays in the trial,” the SC said.
The SC required Reyes to personally attend the hearings on her case, submit a quarterly report to the Clerk of Court of the Sandigabayan of her whereabouts, secure a travel authority from the Sandiganbayan in case she will go abroad, physically present herself to the court within five days of her arrival, and submit a quarterly report on her compliance with the conditions it has set for her temporary liberty.
Reyes was already released by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Enrile’s ex-chief of staff Gigi Reyes temporarily released from jail
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