Enrile’s former aide seeks release after over 6 years in detention over pork barrel scam

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 15 2021 06:01 PM

MANILA — Former senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s former chief-of-staff tagged in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam has filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking her release after more than 6 years in detention.

Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, who is represented by veteran lawyer Estelito Mendoza, on Jan. 13 filed a petition for habeas corpus before the Supreme Court invoking due process and her right to speedy trial. 

A writ of habeas corpus is a remedy against illegal confinement or detention and directs a public official to produce a person in court and show valid reasons for detention.

“Under our laws and those of other civilized nations who respect human rights, when a person has committed a criminal offense, specifically under our Constitution particularly Section 14, Article III, [he or she has the right] to ‘due process of law’, and specifically, among others, to have ‘a speedy, impartial and public trial’” Reyes’ petition read. 

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“Yet, in the case of petitioners, she has been and [continues] to be under detention now for a period of six (6) years, seven (7) months, or for 2,409 days (as of January 12, 2021), and counting, the end beyond perception,” the petition added. 

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Reyes also called the writ an “ancient and well-established remedy” although the petition did not say why her detention is, as she alleged, illegal given the plunder charge she’s facing.

She has been detained at the Taguig City Jail's Female Dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa since her arrest on July 9, 2014. 

She and Enrile are facing plunder charges in connection with the pork barrel scam where the former Senate President is accused of allegedly receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles. 

The scheme involves the diversion of lawmakers' discretionary funds to bogus NGOs. The high court invalidated the Priority Development Assistance Fund system in 2013 when the racket was busted. 

Enrile was released on humanitarian grounds in 2015 despite facing non-bailable charges. 

Detained longer 

In her petition, Reyes pointed out that she has been detained longer than others who similarly faced plunder charges but who have been set free: 

  • Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo - acquitted in July 2016 (1,387 days in detention)
  • Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. - acquitted in December 2018 (1,643 days in detention)
  • Enrile (one of her co-accused) - released on bail by the Supreme Court in August 2015 (413 days in detention)
  • Former Sen. Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada - released on bail by the Sandiganbayan in September 2017 (1,188 days in detention)

The cases of Arroyo, Revilla, and Estrada, however, involved different circumstances.

The Sandiganbayan in June 2018 denied Reyes’ bail petition.

In May last year, she also filed a motion for provisional release before the Sandiganbayan, citing the potential spread of COVID-19 at the detention facility. She also said she has high risk of contracting the virus since she was already 57 years then.

But the Sandiganbayan again junked her plea, saying she was not able to show that she was in actual or imminent threat of being infected by COVID-19.