MANILA - A joint fact-finding team of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will investigate the allegations of Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile's former chief of staff, Atty. Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes, and her family.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday said she has received the request submitted by Santiago, who alleged that Enrile dipped his hands into a multibillion-peso project at the Cagayan freeport by using Reyes and her family's construction firm.
De Lima said the request will be transmitted to the DOJ-NBI team led by Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano that will be investigating Santiago's earlier request to have Enrile probed for various crimes.
In a two-page letter to de Lima dated February 14, Santiago alleged that Enrile used Reyes and her family in the disbursement of over P5 billion in public funds infused into the Cagayan Freeport.
"I humbly submit that it would certainly be productive to investigate the use of the names of his chief of staff - Atty. Jessica Lucilla "Gigi" Reyes - and her family in the disbursement of P5.101 billion in public funds.'
"Enrile was able to insert this humongous amount in the budget for the Cagayan Freeport for the last five years. It appears that Enrile used their names to surreptitiously morph the Freeport into the main vehicle for smuggling and other illicit operations," Santiago said.
Santiago earlier accused Enrile of being "the king of smuggling," among others, in a privilege speech at the Senate last year. Thereafter, she formally wrote De Lima, requesting for an investigation into Enrile's alleged crimes, dating back to Martial Law years.
She also accused Enrile of having an illicit affair with Reyes.
In her recent letter to De Lima, Santiago said Port Irene, "described as 'the backbone of the [Cagayan] Freeport,'" consumed the P5.101 billion for the construction of a breakwater which was awarded to a firm with links to Sta. Fe Builders where the members of the Board of Directors includes Reyes' family.
"The [breakwater] builder was Sta. Elena Construction, headed by Alice Eduardo as president and CEO. But Eduardo is also president of Sta. Fe Builders, which shares an office with Sta. Elena Construction at 1625 Leon Guinto St., Manila.'
"Here, certain details betrays Enrile's hand. The Sta. Fe Builders board of directors includes Gigi's family. Her brother, Neal Jose O. Gonzales, is board chair; and her mother, Maria O. Cooper, is a board member and one of the directors," Santiago said.
She said this clearly shows "Enrile's thumbprint" in the breakwater deal.
"Thus, it appears that Enrile has used the names of his chief of staff and her family to mask his immense personal financial interests, not only in Sta. Fe Builders, but also in Sta. Elena Construction. The latter apparently served as conduit for the P5.101 billion that the government spent for the breakwater of Port Irene, basically Enrile's brainchild when he served as representative," Santiago pointed out.
Alice Eduardo, using her ties with Enrile, also bagged huge projects such as the Pagcor Entertainment City, North Luzon Expressway, SM projects (including the Mall of Asia), four power plants, traffic interchanges, bridge projects, and flood control projects, according to Santiago.
"More recently, Eduardo reportedly became one of the Filipino partners of Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada," Santiago said.
Last year, the DOJ recommended the filing of charges against Okada and 25 others for violating Philippine anti-dummy laws in connection with Okada's bid to win concessions for a casino in Entertainment City.
"If Enrile is inexplicably linked to Eduardo, the logical question follows: Is Eduardo a front woman for Enrile's business interests? If not, why did Enrile entrust to her a project in his home base, the Cagayan Freeport, with a budget costing the government P5.101 billion?"
"I respectfully request that the DOJ investigating panel should pursue this angle," Santiago said.
Last December, Santiago requested De Lima to order the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to probe Enrile for deaths and disappearances during Martial Law; illegal logging, also, during Martial Law; illegal gambling, and smuggling at Port Irene.
The NBI had filed plunder charges against several individuals, including Enrile and Reyes with the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged involvement in the "pork barrel" scam. - reports from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News