No arrest yet; Gigi Reyes seeks TRO
MANILA, Philippines–There won’t be any arrest anytime soon, at least this week, even as one of the indictees, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, on Tuesday asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Sandiganbayan from proceeding against her.
“Without necessarily giving due course to (Reyes’ petition), the court required respondent Ombudsman to comment on the petition within 10 days from notice,” Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te told reporters of the decision taken during its en banc session on Tuesday.
Reyes asked the court to nullify two resolutions issued by Morales, saying their issuance was done with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
In her 81-page petition, Reyes, who served as chief of staff of Enrile from 2005 until her resignation last year, said the resolutions were based on the statements of Ruby Tuason, which were never furnished her in spite of her repeated requests so that she could disprove them.
Tuason, the social secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, was granted immunity by the Ombudsman after she told authorities she personally handed PDAF kickbacks from Napoles to lawmakers and their staff members and returned P40 million she had purportedly earned from the deals.
Reyes said Morales engaged in unfair and unequal enforcement of the laws by granting Tuason and other whistle-blowers immunity from prosecution even if their statements showed they were among “the most guilty respondents.”
Reyes said Morales ignored the evidence she had submitted showing the documents presented against her were forged, false and fictitious.
The Ombudsman, she continued, also relied on the purported hearsay declarations of the whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy who, Reyes said, mentioned her name but acknowledged they did not deal with her directly.
Reyes, likewise, said she was not given the chance to question the immunity that Morales had granted Tuason and the other whistle-blowers. She said that all these showed that Morales “disregarded (her) constitutional and statutory rights as well as vital and essential facts on record which show lack of probable cause to bind (her) over to trial.”
Unless the Ombudsman is stopped, Reyes said she would suffer grave and irreparable injury, pointing out that plunder is a nonbailable offense
Creation of 2 special divisions
Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court directed the Sandiganbayan and others concerned to comment “within the nonextendible period of three days from notice” on the proposal for the creation of two special divisions of the antigraft court that would handle the plunder cases against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. and the others accused.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales had asked the high tribunal to form the special courts to “exclusively try and conduct continuous trial” of the cases involving the alleged diversion of P10 billion in congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects and kickbacks.
Morales wrote Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on June 6—the day the Office of the Ombudsman filed the plunder charges in the Sandiganbayan—that the “national magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and far-reaching consequences of these cases” required the establishment of the special courts.
The Sandiganbayan is set to raffle the cases among its five divisions on Friday. Whichever division is chosen to handle the cases will then determine if it merits trial, and if arrest warrants will be issued. Plunder is a nonbailable offense punishable by life imprisonment.
Revilla and Estrada and Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, have announced plans to file a motion in the Supreme Court for the judicial determination of probable cause of their plunder case once the Sandiganbayan has designated a court to hear their case.
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