Custodial center not for accused in 'pork' scam?

MANILA, Philippines – In what seemed to be a slip, a jail warden summoned to the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center is not meant to detain the accused in the pork barrel scam.

During the hearing of the court's 3rd division on the motion of lawyer Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes to be transferred to the PNP custodial center, jail warden Elena Rocamora said on Tuesday, July 8, the detainees at the facility are supposed to be those "under investigation by the police authorities."

Rocamora made the distinction before the court, after she was quizzed by Justice Alex Quiroz on the difference between a "detention center" and a "custodial center."

She said those held in detention centers like the Quezon City (QC) jail are those still "awaiting trial." She added that Reyes is not being investigated by the PNP but is awaiting trial.

Pressed by Quiroz to explain what she was implying, Rocamora, however, stopped short of declaring that the accused should not be detained at the custodial center. 

She said she could only attest to the report of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) that Reyes could not be secured in its QC facility.

Rocamora was summoned by the court to personally attest to the BJMP report, which stated that the QC jail female dormitory is 800% over its capacity.

The report was mandated by the court, after it initially committed Reyes to the QC facility.

In the meantime and until further orders from the court, Reyes is to be detained at the female-exclusive detention cell at the Sandiganbayan basement.

But Reyes formally moved to be transferred to the PNP custodial center in Camp Crame.

Admonished for being 'unprepared'

Prosecutor Annielyn Medes-Cabellis argued vehemently against the requested transfer, despite being admonished by Justice Samuel Martires for being "unprepared." 

Cabellis said the transfer would be a violation of the Philippine charter's equal protection clause, as other untried prisoners are normally detained at a jail facility nearest to the court. 

In Reyes' case, because she surrendered to the Sandiganbayan, this would be the QC jail.

Without a written opposition to back up her oral arguments, Cabellis was asked by Martires, "You mean to say you came to the court unprepared?"

The prosecutors opposed the move to transfer Reyes. But Quiroz asked Cabellis if the same opposition was lodged against the other accused who are currently detained at the PNP Custodial Center.

To demonstrate the case of another accused similarly situated, Quiroz mentioned Richard Cambe.

A legislative staff of indicted plunderer and opposition senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr, Cambe surrendered to the Sandiganbayan but requested to be detained at the PNP Custodial Center.

His request was granted by the Sandiganbayan 1st division, which is hearing Revilla's cases.

Cabellis simply said the prosecution will file their written opposition Tuesday afternoon.

3rd division clerk of court Dennis Pulma said right after the closing of the Sandiganbayan offices that the opposition has been filed and the motion will soon be resolved by the court. –