Sandigan denies Gigi Reyes’ plea to suspend plunder trial
The Sandiganbayan on Thursday denied the request of Atty. Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes to suspend her plunder trial over the pork barrel scam.
During the hearing of the anti-graft court Third Division, Reyes’ lawyer Atty. Luis Karlo Tagarda appealed to the court to suspend the trial because Reyes has a pending petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court.
Tagarda asked the court to wait for the Supreme Court to rule on Reyes’ petition, which has been pending for over a year now since Sept. 2014.
But acting division chair Associate Justice Samuel Martires said the anti-graft court cannot suspend trial because the Supreme Court has yet to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO).
Reyes’ motion seeks to suspend trial because her right to due process was allegedly violated when the prosecution failed to furnish her a copy of the sworn statement of state witness Ruby Tuason.
Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, is accused of serving as an agent for Enrile in receiving millions of kickbacks. Tuason, the former social secretary of former Pres. Joseph Estrada, has testified in court that she personally delivered Enrile’s kickbacks to Reyes.
Martires said the Sandiganbayan would appear ignorant of the law if it gives in to Reyes’ request to postpone her trial.
“If somebody complains that we suspended the proceedings in the case without a TRO, what would the Supreme Court do? We will appear ignorant of the law and we abused our discretion,” Martires said.
“We can’t suspend the proceedings simply because of a pending petition for certiorari which revolves only around one witness,” he added.
Reyes’ counsel requested at least for the court to postpone the testimony of Tuason in the witness stand to next month.
The prosecution agreed to reset Tuason’s testimony on February. Tuason was initially set to be the first witness when trial starts on Jan. 13.
Because the prosecution requested more time to prepare for the testimonies of other witnesses, Martires cancelled the original trial dates of Jan. 13, 14, and 15, and reset the first day of trial to Jan. 20.
Reyes had also asked the court to limit the trial dates to once a week due to time constraints of her lawyers. Martires said the court has submitted this motion for resolution.
Enrile is accused of receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles through his alleged agents Tuason and Reyes.
Enrile is out on bail from hospital detention after the Supreme Court considered his petition, citing his advanced age and political stature.
READ: While Enrile runs free, Napoles denied bail over ‘pork’ scam
While Enrile was granted bail, Reyes is detained at the female dormitory of the Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig pending her plunder trial.
In denying the bail of Napoles and Reyes, the Sandiganbayan in its resolution had taken credence in Tuason’s testimony and said Reyes received the kickbacks from Napoles, even though there is still no evidence Enrile directly benefited from it.
Reyes is seen as taking the fall for Enrile in the alleged pork barrel scam. She has also been romantically linked to the 91-year-old senator.
The alleged pork barrel scam is an elaborate scheme of converting legislators’ congressional lumpsum fund Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) into ghost projects for kickbacks through Napoles’ bogus foundations.
The antigraft court is also hearing the plunder cases of detained senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, as well as of former APEC Rep. Edgar Valdez and dismissed Masbate governor Rizalina Lanete. Estrada and Revilla are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. Lañete and Valdez, meanwhile, are detained at the Camp Bagong Diwa.
Accused mastermind Napoles faces multiple counts of plunder, malversation and graft. She was sentenced to life in prison for the serious illegal detention of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.