Gigi Reyes breaks down at arraignment
MANILA, Philippines—As she faced the justices of the Sandiganbayan not as an officer of the court but as an accused in the plunder case involving the diversion of P10 billion in congressional pork barrel funds, lawyer Gigi Reyes broke down.
Family members immediately went to her to comfort her. She sobbed quietly as she left the seat reserved for lawyers in front of the justices.
“We allowed the accused to occupy the lawyers’ table because she is a lawyer herself,” said Associate Justice Samuel Martires of the antigraft court’s Third Division.
Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, chair of the Third Division, entered a plea of not guilty on Reyes’ behalf after she refused to enter a plea.
“Upon the advice of my counsel, I’m not entering a plea, your honor,” Reyes told the court in a faint voice.
After standing before the court for a few minutes, Reyes asked to be permitted to sit down. She appeared weak and was obviously holding back tears.
Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, is standing trial for plunder and graft for her alleged role in the scam.
Reyes’ former boss, who is being held at a police hospital in Camp Crame, Quezon City, is accused of allegedly taking P172 million in kickbacks through the allegedly anomalous transactions that he and Reyes conducted with bogus nongovernment organizations controlled by alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
Unlike the other accused in the case, Reyes was taken to the Sandiganbayan in handcuffs. She arrived at 7:20 a.m. amid tight security and was brought directly to the courtroom by female personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
Wearing a peach long-sleeved shirt and dark-colored jeans, a pale Reyes struggled to return to her seat, holding on to the handrail that separated the lawyers’ table from the seat reserved for the accused.
She complained of dizziness and difficulty in breathing, prompting her security escorts to ask her to breathe into a paper bag.
One of her security escorts, who immediately attended to her, said her blood pressure was 139/94.
But Rodaline Pamorca, the court’s nurse who also checked on her, said Reyes’ blood pressure was “normal” at 120/80.
“Her blood pressure was generally normal. But some people would feel dizzy with that blood pressure [reading] when they are hyperventilating,” Pamorca told reporters.
“Maybe she was feeling nervous after her arraignment. That’s normal for somebody who has just faced the court,” she added.
Reyes did not use the wheelchair that a court employee brought in. Instead, two jail personnel assisted her as she left the court on her way back to her detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.
A spokesperson for the BJMP-National Capital Region said Reyes had unstable blood pressure yesterday when she left Camp Bagong Diwa at 6:25 a.m. for the hearing.
According to Insp. Aris Villaester, Reyes had a blood pressure reading of 160/100, which later became 140/100.
Villaester did not cite the specific times when Reyes gave off those readings, whether it was before, during or after her arraignment.
He, however, said the figures “normalized” to 120/90 after Reyes took the medication given to her by her attending nurse.
Villaester added that during and after the arraignment, Reyes “looked weak, pale and dizzy.”
Meanwhile, Reyes on Friday filed a fresh petition reiterating her earlier plea for the Supreme Court to junk her indictment for plunder and graft and to release her from detention.
Reyes’ lawyers filed a 19-page petition for certiorari and prohibition in the Supreme Court seeking the same remedies that the high court had shot down as “procedurally defective” just last Tuesday. The junked petition was filed as a supplement to her still-pending petition against the Ombudsman involving the same case.
The new pleading, this time filed as a separation action, sought “to nullify and set aside, for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of in excess of jurisdiction, resolutions of the Sandiganbayan Third Division… for absence of probable cause.” With reports from Kristine Felisse Mangunay and Tarra Quismundo
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