MANILA, Philippines – If Gigi Reyes is willing to face the charges against her, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago believes she should also be open to a Senate grilling.
Santiago asked Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Teofisto “TG” Guingona III to invite the former chief of staff of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile to a Senate hearing, and reopen the investigation into the pork barrel scam.
In a letter to Guingona dated Monday, April 21, Santiago said the committee can continue its investigation even after Guingona issued a partial report recommending plunder charges against Enrile, Reyes, and Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr and Jinggoy Estrada.
“As a member, I signed the partial committee report recommending the indictment of 3 senators. However, I believe that nothing in the Senate Rules prevents our committee from continuing the present inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the pork barrel scam,” said Santiago, Enrile’s bitter rival.
The senator said the committee can just issue an addendum to the partial report or a “similar subsequent report” based on Reyes’ testimony. Guingona released the report on April 1, even without the signature of the committee members.
“I believe that the testimony of Atty Reyes would serve to round off and clarify certain aspects of the partial report,” Santiago said.
The senator cited Reyes’ media statement upon her arrival early Saturday that she was willing to face the plunder charges the Ombudsman plans to file against her. Santiago repeatedly urged Reyes to turn state witness.
“Although I continue to remain on medical leave for chronic fatigue syndrome, as in the previous hearings of the committee, I shall make myself available for any hearings on this subject, whether you decide to hold it before or after the Senate resumes session,” Santiago said.
The Senate is on session break and will reconvene on May 5 yet.
Guingona has yet to respond to Santiago’s letter. Over the weekend, the committee chairman refused to comment on Reyes’ surprise return.
Reyes arrived in Manila after spending 8 months abroad. She left the country in August 2013, a month after the pork barrel scam broke out.
Formally known as Jessica Lucila Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff faces allegations of being the senator’s conduit in the scam, supposedly signing documents endorsing bogus non-governmental organizations and receiving millions of pesos in kickbacks in his behalf.
Santiago branded Reyes as Enrile’s “concubine,” insinuating that their alleged affair was a factor in the suspected pork barrel scam conspiracy.
‘Waste of time if Gigi says nothing’
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, another blue ribbon committee member and Enrile nemesis, told Rappler that he was willing to support Santiago’s proposal but with a condition.
“I’m open to a special hearing of the blue ribbon committee but only after getting an assurance from her lawyer that she would tell all. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time and might end up like the testimony of Napoles,” Trillanes said in reference to the alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
Two days after her arrival, the motive behind Reyes’ return remains unclear. Reports were rife over the weekend that she might turn state witness and testify against Enrile. Yet Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Reyes was not in touch with her office, calling the possibility of Reyes turning state witness a “big question mark.”
Reyes has yet to issue a statement to clarify her plans now that she is back in the Philippines.
No delay in filing of case
Senator Francis Escudero rejected some lawmakers’ statement that Reyes’ return will delay the filing of charges against the accused before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
“The periods to answer and file the motion for reconsideration are not changed. It is from the time they received (personally or through counsel) copies of all pleadings,” Escudero told Rappler.
Escudero was responding to the statement of Isabela Rep Giorgidi Aggabao that Reyes’ return will delay the filing of charges because she might request for a reinvestigation of her case on the basis that “she was unable to traverse the complaint by way of counter-affidavit.”
Amid all the debate about Reyes’ return and the reasons behind it, Enrile chose to keep his silence so far. – Rappler.com