pork barrel scam

No COVID-19 risk: Sandiganbayan junks bail plea of ex-Enrile aide Gigi Reyes in 3-2 vote

Lian Buan
The anti-graft court had to create a special division because of an impasse. Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Geraldine Faith Econg dissented.

Saying she did not present evidence to prove she was at risk of COVID-19 infection while in detention, the anti-graft court Sandigabayan junked the bail plea of Gigi Reyes, the former chief of staff of former senator Juan Ponce Enrile who has been detained for 6 years over the pork barrel scam.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division voted 3-2 to reject the bail plea of Reyes, who had invoked humanitarian considerations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is no evidence presented that accused Reyes is in danger of acquiring COVID-19 while in detention,” the court said in a resolution promulgated on Tuesday, September 29.

The resolution was penned by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang with concurrences from Associate Justices Ronald Moreno and Ma Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.

Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Geraldine Faith Econg dissented. Econg, in her separate dissenting opinion, said the court should first conduct a new medical examination of Reyes to determine her current health condition.

This means that the Third Division created a special division to reach this resolution. Fernandez’s dissent was the impasse in the regular division composed of him, Tang, and Moreno.

In the Sandiganbayan, if a regular division does not reach a unanimous vote of 3, it has to get two additional special members to break a tie. In this case, Econg dissented and Estoesta concurred for a vote of 3-2.

This is the latest defeat of Reyes in her bid for temporary liberty. Her last loss was in 2018, when the Third Division also created a special division. Fernandez was again the impasse in that vote, where the justice flip-flopped and voted in Reyes’ favor. Reyes still lost 4-1.

No humanitarian consideration

In its latest resolution, the court said that Reyes failed to produce evidence that there are even coronavirus cases in Camp Bagong Diwa, where Reyes stayed in her own cell.

“The Court recalls that during one of its visits to Camp Bagong Diwa, it was shown the cell where accused Reyes will be detained by herself separate from the other detainees; hence, negating the probability that she would be infected by the virus from other inmates therein,” the Sandiganbayan said.

Reyes is 57 years old. She tried to invoke a recent Supreme Court circular that ordered urgent release of prisoners that fall under the old criteria of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA).

The Sandiganbayan said Reyes does not qualify because OCA rules only cover prisoners  who have been detained longer than their minimum penalty, and those whose cases are not moving because of lack of witnesses.

Reyes is detained over her non-bailable plunder charge with Enrile for allegedly keeping P172.8 million in kickbacks in the pork barrel scam. The Supreme Court granted bail to Enrile in August 2015, citing humanitarian grounds because of his age and his health issues.

When Reyes tried to invoke the Supreme Court’s bail grant to Enrile on humanitarian grounds, the Sandiganbayan said: “Except for her bare claim, accused Reyes did not present any substantiating evidence that she is suffering from a medically diagnosed life-threatening illness such that her continued confinement at Camp Bagong Diwa would be injurious to her health or endanger her life during this pandemic.”

Econg said it was “premature to deny” Reyes’ motion because the Court had not made a new assessment of her health condition.

“This is precisely what I find disturbing – that the basis for denial of accused Reyes’ instant motion are the doctors’ findings made in 2014,” said Econg.

“It is my humble submission that instead of denying the instant Motion outright, the Court should have directed the examination of accused Reyes to determine her actual health condition,” Econg added. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.