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'No VIP treatment' for Gigi Reyes in Taguig jail

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a far cry from the comforts enjoyed by a woman whose 50th birthday party was attended by no less than the Philippine president.

Just before the clock struck 12 midnight on Wednesday, July 9, lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes settled into her new detention facility inside Philippine National Police (PNP) National Capital Region headquarters Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig city.

The Taguig jail, located inside a “camp within a camp,” is where Reyes will now stay after she was ordered detained there by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. She will be staying in the female dormitory on the fourth floor of the jail.

Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, is accused of pocketing millions in public funds through fake projects of bogus non-governmental organizations. Her co-accussed in the scam include her former boss and Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada.

Malungkot siya noong pumasok pero 'yung health naman niya as checked sa doctors ng BJMP, okay naman,” said   Inspector Aris Villaester, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology spokesman for the National Capital Region told reporters outside the camp.

(She looked sad when she entered but as checked by BJMP doctors, she has no health issues.)

Reyes had no special requests, said Villaester, except for her to bring in her own mattress. The BJMP convoy left the Sandiganbayan at around 10:30 pm and arrived in Bagong Diwa after 50 minutes.

‘Ordinary inmate’

As far as the BJMP is concerned, Reyes is an “ordinary inmate.”

There will be no extended visiting hours, plentitude of visitors, or free-flowing food while in detention. The BJMP won’t be giving her special considerations, despite her voluntary surrender, said Villaester. (READ: Visitors, food galore in jail: The perks of senators)

"There will be no VIP treatment for her for the rest of her stay in the BJMP," the BJMP said in a statement. 

If and when she needs to be moved to the Sandiganbayan to attend a hearing, Reyes will wear a yellow BJMP detainee shirt and may be required to wear handcuffs. In contrast, Revilla and Estrada attended their arraignments in "formal attire" – barong Tagalog – and without handcuffs.

The PNP had said that this was because the two senators weren't considered flight risks. 

Reyes’ arraignment is scheduled on Friday, July 11.

Unlike her co-accussed in the scam, Reyes won’t be awaiting trial inside a newly-renovated custodial center or an air-conditioned hospital room. (IN PHOTOS: Senators' detention center in Camp Crame)

Revilla, Estrada, and lawyer Richard Cambe, Revilla’s former political officer, are currently detained in the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame. Estrada and Revilla are staying inside a newly-renovated facility inside the custodial center compound.

Another personality in the scam, alleged mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, is detained at a PNP camp in Laguna. 

Reyes asked the court to move her to the custodial center, where she would have been assigned to her own cell, but this was denied by the Sandiganbayan. (READ: How things went wrong for Gigi Reyes)

Instead, Reyes will have to stay in a room designed for up to 4 detainees.

Known for her propensity for designer bags and expensive jewelry, Reyes will have to live with only the basics – an electric fan, and a mattress with beddings inside the 1.5 meter by 6 meter cell.

During her first week inside the jail, Reyes will stay in an “isolation room” for pregnant detainees. She currently has only one pregnant cellmate. After the mandatory week-long isolation, the city warden will determine if she needs to be moved to a different cell.

The food budget is tight at P50 ($1.15*)/day, but Villaester said visitors can bring in food as long as its first inspected by BJMP personnel.

High-security detention

While Reyes' detention center is nothing special, the security measures in the facility are anything but.

Her would-be visitors will have to go through 3 gates before reaching the BJMP compound, said Villaester. Once a visitor enters the BJMP camp, there is  another check point.

The tight security isn’t surprising. While Reyes is detained inside a “regular” jail, detention facilities surrounding her are of a very different nature. 

Over 200 rebels arrested for their involvement in the September 2013 Zamboanga siege, for instance, are also detained in Camp Bagong Diwa. Also inside Bagong Diwa are suspects in the grisly Maguindanao massacre.

Reporters and media vehicles are not allowed beyond the gates of the camp for this same reason, the police officer said. 

Reyes’ jail mates, meanwhile face charges for “minor” cases – usually estafa. The first floor of the Taguig jail is where the offices are located, while the next two floors are for male detainees.

Female detainees occupy the 4th and top floor, which has an entrance separate from the male detainees' floors.

The police officer told Rappler he was confident the BJMP will hold true to its promise to not give Reyes "special treatment." BJMP personnel, he said, have become more conscious of their actions especially after the criticism they received over the death of detainee Andrea Rosal's newborn baby

Rosal, however, was detained in a more cramped jail.  

Better than Quezon City?

The female dormitory, which has an “ideal capacity” of 78 inmates, currently houses 138. But Villaester was quick to say the Taguig jail is a “much better facility” for Reyes, at least compared to the Quezon city jail where she was originally ordered detained.

The Taguig jail’s congestion rate stands at 63%, compared to the 800% congestion rate in the Quezon jail.

Villaester said Reyes was accompanied by around 6 family members, but only her brother was allowed to accompany her when her mugshot and finger prints were taken by authorities. Reyes can only receive pre-approved visitors between 1 pm to 4 pm Tuesdays to Fridays, and 8 am to 4 pm during the weekend.

Around 5 visitors are allowed in her cell at a time. – Rappler.com

*$1:P43.3