MANILA - Lawyer Jessica Lucilla ''Gigi'' Reyes, the former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, will surrender once the Sandiganbayan issues the warrant of arrest.
Sources from Reyes’ camp said Enrile’s trusted ally has been weighing her options since she returned from abroad last April, about six months after she left as she was dragged into the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund misuse.
“She’s just around. She will give herself up to the proper authorities once a warrant of arrest is issued,” a person close to Reyes told a group of Senate reporters over the weekend.
Warrants for the arrest of Reyes and Enrile as well as Sen. Jinggoy Estrada are expected to be out this week.
Estrada renewed his marriage vows with wife Precy in ceremonies last night at their home in Greenhills, San Juan in preparation for his expected detention without bail for plunder.
Reyes, a lawyer by profession, has studied the plunder charges leveled against her and is ready to clear herself in court, a close aide revealed.
Whistle-blowers have directly linked her to the pork barrel fund skimming. Observers have pointed out that she is the only person who can directly link Enrile to the scam.
Reyes reportedly returned to the country upon Enrile’s d2 advice and to take care of her children who became traumatized after their mother was implicated in the controversy.
Reyes asked the Sandiganbayan on Friday to suspend its proceedings on the plunder case and defer the issuance of warrant of arrest against her.
In her urgent motion, Reyes said the Sandiganbayan should first await the Supreme Court resolution on her application for temporary restraining
order and/or write of preliminary injunction “as a matter of courtesy.”
Reyes raised concerns whether the resolutions of the Ombudsman are tainted with nullity for denying her right to due process and equal protection of the law, and whether the Ombudsman disregarded vital and essential facts and evidence on record which negate the existence of probable cause against her.
Compared to Pauline Labayen, appointments secretary of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who resigned after she was implicated in the case, Reyes has been asserting her rights to due process in connection with the plunder case.
The Estrada camp has not seen nor heard from Labayen since the controversy erupted last year.
Reyes is expected to be arrested anytime this week along with Enrile and Estrada as principal accused in the pork barrel scam.
The period in which the Sandiganbayan’s Third and Fifth Divisions chaired by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Roland Jurado, respectively, to determine probable cause for the issuance of the warrant of arrest will end on Friday.
Sandiganbayan spokesman Renato Bocar earlier explained the magistrates have 10 days to review criminal complaints and rule on whether the Office of the Ombudsman has a case, with or without motions for judicial determination of probable cause from the defendants.
If there is a finding of probable clause, the anti-graft court will issue arrest orders and schedule an arraignment date much like how Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. voluntarily surrendered last Friday and will be arraigned on June 26 before the First Division headed by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz.
Enrile, through lawyer Estelito Mendoza, is challenging the indictment before the Third Division, claiming there is no evidence to show the senator committed the crime of plunder by pocketing public funds through the pork barrel scam.
Mendoza filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of Enrile, asking the Sandiganbayan to junk the criminal complaint. He argued the complaint does not even clearly state what crime was committed and how because it was chockfull of general allegations.
Estrada, through lawyer Jose Flaminiano, is also asking the Fifth Division to junk the cases filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman, citing his innocence and the lack of evidence to support the criminal charges, among others.
A total of 45 cases divided roughly into three, based on one principal accused and their respective co-accused had been filed before the Sandiganbayan against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. The cases were raffled off to separate divisions of the anti-graft court.
Enrile’s 16 cases – one plunder and 15 graft – where he and other respondents, including Reyes are accused of pocketing P172 million in pork barrel fund kickbacks or commissions, went to Tang.
Estrada’s 12 cases – one plunder and 11 graft – where he and fellow respondents are accused of stealing P183 million, went to the Fifth Division chaired by Associate Justice Jurado.
Revilla’s 17 cases – one plunder and 16 graft – where he is accused of pocketing P242 million went to the First Division chaired by Justice de la Cruz.
Since suspected pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles is a respondent in all the cases filed against the lawmakers, she will face charges and/or trial in all three courts.
On Friday, the First Division issued the warrant of arrest for Revilla and the other co-accused.
Revilla is now detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Camp Crame under the custody of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group. –Michael Punongbayan