MANILA — The prosecution on Tuesday challenged lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes’ claim that her signatures in 7 endorsement letters connected to the alleged misuse of former senator and now chief presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were forged.
Reyes, during her initial testimony before the Sandiganbayan Third Division last week, said she never signed any letter endorsing NGOs as implementing agencies of Enrile’s PDAF, insisting that these letters never went through her.
She served as Enrile’s chief of staff from 1995 to 2001 and from 2004 to January 2013.
The letters were written between April 18, 2007 and December 7, 2009 and were addressed to various government agencies or corporations such as the Department of Agriculture, the National Livelihood Development Corporation and the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center.
Among the evidence Reyes presented was a memorandum dated August 29, 2013 allegedly prepared by Enrile’s then-deputy chief of staff, Jose Antonio Evangelista, supposedly explaining to the Commission on Audit (COA) that Enrile did not really confirm the signatures of his former staff, contrary to the text of Enrile’s earlier letter to COA.
Under cross-examination by Prosecutor Jennifer Agustin-Se, Reyes admitted however that she did not see Annex F to the memorandum, which supposedly states which letters bore Reyes’ allegedly forged signatures.
“I’m not familiar. I don’t remember seeing at the time,” she said.
Agustin-Se secured an admission that Reyes “was not able to confirm” if all 7 endorsement letters were included in the annex as bearing her allegedly forged signatures.
“You also don’t know that in Annex F, Atty. Evangelista identified only 2 documents which contain your alleged forged signatures,” she continued to probe.
“I’m not aware,” Reyes responded.
Agustin-Se pointed out that despite the grave allegation of forged signatures, Reyes did not write to COA herself to inform the agency of the supposed forgery.
Neither did she ask her former boss Enrile to write to COA and retract the confirmation of his staff’s signatures sent in 2012, when she was still Enrile’s chief of staff.
“I did not have and I have no authority to tell Senator Enrile to do anything,” she said.
“I did not ask to write a letter to the COA because Senator Enrile, in the meeting, said to Deputy Chief of Staff [Jose Antonio] Evangelista to write a letter to explain the circumstances. I believe that we would be given an opportunity to be confronted with the letters with that correspondence. And I believed wrongly. COA never asked me to verify my signatures therein,” she added.
Earlier in the hearing, while finishing her direct examination, Reyes presented the affidavit and a report of a document examiner which would supposedly back her claim that her signatures were forged.
“He said that based on the signatures that I gave him, these were not signed by one and the same person,” she quoted document examiner Rogelio Azores as saying.
But the prosecution was quick to point out that both the affidavit and the report were not the original documents.
Reyes explained they were still trying to locate the original documents, which supposedly were in the custody of Azores, who was not available to testify because of poor health.
Reyes’ lawyer, Anacleto Diaz, told the court Azores is already 85 years old.
Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Ronald Moreno however allowed the provisional marking of the documents.
Under the rules on evidence, the best evidence of the contents of a writing is the original document, subject to certain exceptions.
In her testimony, Reyes continued to assert that she never received any money from whistleblowers Ruby Tuason and Benhur Luy, through alleged intermediaries.
Instead, Reyes told “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles’ lawyer that she never received any money from Napoles nor did she talk to or exchanged text messages and emails with Napoles or Luy in connection with PDAF funds.
Reyes is accused of conspiring with Enrile and Napoles to amass P172.83 million worth of kickbacks from Enrile’s PDAF funneled through ghost NGOs created by Napoles.
“I did not amass, accumulate, acquire any amount from the PDAF of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile,” she said.
“I had worked for the senator for more than 20 years. I can honestly say that I never abused my authority nor the trust that was reposed on me by the senator and the Senate in all my years of service. Not only as a lawyer but as technical staff member, as chief of staff of the senator, as chief of staff of the Office of the Senate President. I never went beyond the authority delegated to me by the senator and never abused the trust of any of the senators, much less Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, the former Senate President,” she continued.
Reyes surrendered to the Sandiganbayan on July 4, 2014 and was released in January this year, after the Supreme Court granted her habeas corpus petition, ruling that her detention has become oppressive and infringed her right to liberty.
Reyes said that as a result of her detention for 8 years, 6 months and 16 days, she missed the graduation of her 2 younger children and was not able to take care of her elderly mother.
She said she could not even practice law because of missed compliance periods for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education for lawyers.
Reyes will continue her cross-examination on Thursday, November 23, 2023 at 2 p.m.