MANILA, Philippines – Lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, former chief of staff of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, is confident proceedings on her plunder and graft charges will be halted.
Reyes’ counsel, Anacleto Diaz, told Rappler his client was merely “caught in the crossfire of political giants.”
He refused to elaborate, but cited the supposedly weak evidence that the prosecution has against his client. Reyes is accused of getting kickbacks from the illegal diversion of Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bougs non-governmental organizations controlled by Janet Lim Napoles.
Diaz appeared before the Sandiganbayan on Tuesday, June 17, as the anti-graft court heard Reyes’ plea to suspend for 30 days the proceedings in her plunder and graft charges.
According to Diaz, the failure of the Ombudsman to furnish their camp a copy of state witness Ruby Tuason’s affidavit violated Reyes’ right to due process. This alleged violation prompted them to petition the Supreme Court (SC) on June 9 to stop her indictment.
While the SC has yet to decide on Reyes’ petition, the proceedings at the Sandiganbayan must be suspended out of judicial courtesy, Reyes’ lawyer argued.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, however, reminded Diaz of Section 7, Rule 65, of the Revised Rules of Court.
It states that a petition for this kind of relief “shall not interrupt the course of the principal case unless a temporary restraining order (TRO) or writ of preliminary injunction has been issued.”
The SC has yet to issue a TRO or even give due course to Reyes’ petition. It simply ordered respondent Ombudsman to comment on Reyes’ plea.
Confident the SC will issue a TRO, Diaz argued that Reyes is simply asking the Sandiganbayan for a 30-day suspension of proceedings.
He added that Reyes will face her charges if there is no TRO in 30 days.
Tang also observed that the cases cited by Reyes in invoking judicial courtesy were petitions involving a court, specifically the Court of Appeals, as respondent. On the other hand, the respondent in Reyes’ SC petition was not a court, not Sandiganbayan, but the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman filed plunder and graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against Reyes, senators Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada.
On Tuesday, barely an hour before the anti-graft court hearing, prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman filed their opposition against Reyes’ motion.
Prosecutors argued that anti-graft justices can be charged administratively if they fail to proceed with the case when there is no TRO from the SC.
Prosecutors refused to respond to allegations that they violated Reyes’ right to due process. They said they would only argue against the motion to suspend the proceedings.
It was the Solicitor General, they said, who had been assigned by the Ombudsman to respond before the SC to Reyes’ accusations.
Reyes filed an urgent motion to suspend proceedings before the Sandiganbayan last June 13.
On Tuesday, justices gave Reyes 5 days to reply to the opposition of the Ombudsman prosecutors. The prosecutors have another 5 days from receipt of Reyes’ reply to file a rejoinder. – Rappler.com