Juan Ponce Enrile and Gigi Reyes (Composite image)
'Gov’t should not cheapen process on taking state witnesses'
MANILA - The government should not be a pushover when it comes to turning the accused in the pork barrel scam case into state witnesses, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said.
In an interview with ANC, Cayetano expressed doubts over the intentions of lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, in returning to the Philippines.
Cayetano said he sensed a shift in the tone of Reyes’ statements when she left at the height of the pork barrel scam last year and to what she said upon her her return on Saturday (April 19) morning.
“When she left, there was a tone of despair in her. She said she felt betrayed. In coming back, she looked defiant," he said.
Reyes told reporters upon her arrival that she was ready to face the charges.
He said he can’t help but think that Reyes’ return could be “political.”
“I can’t help but think that she has the same strategy as Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, which is a political option of making sure that their candidate wins in 2016. [They] will just ride this out and then hope that something will break to get them off the hook,” he said.
He said he has not seen any change in the pork barrel scam story in terms of evidence over the past two months, which makes the 2016 angle more prominent.
“In the political scene, 2016 is close. We know who their allies are and we know what attitude they’re taking,” Cayetano said.
'GIGI REYES A POWER BROKER'
This is why he wants Reyes to appear before a hearing at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Cayetano believes Reyes is no ordinary “witness.”
He said Reyes was a “power broker and practically ran the administrative side of the Senate during the term of Enrile as Senate President.”
He said Reyes would know the deeper story behind the pork barrel scam, such as how the budget was distributed and how it was spent.
Cayetano believes, however, that it is too soon to say if Reyes can become a “state witness.”
“I’m interested in asking the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman on how they will balance the interest of the state in getting state witnesses and the interest of the people that the money will be returned and [the accused] be punished,” he said.
He said the process of taking in state witnesses is being cheapened. “Each time someone says, ‘I know a lot of things, why don’t I become a state witness,’ it seems we’re always open to it.”
He believes this is what happened in the case former Estrada social secretary Ruby Tuason as well as Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan.
In the Philippines, a person can only either be an accused or a state witness, he said.
The scenario is different in the US where a plea bargaining system is in place. The person accused will not become a “full state witness,” and his or her penalty will only be reduced, he said.
He said the tactic here of state witnesses sends a wrong message that “if you steal, you don't go to jail.”
He said Reyes’ capability of becoming a state witness will still depend on what she has to say.
“Will she admit to having participated in the scam? Will she point to the properties she has accumulated?”