Gigi Reyes stays in prison despite COVID-19 threat, court rules

Published January 21, 2021, 2:16 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The appeal of Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, the chief of staff of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, to be released from jail in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has once again been denied by the Sandiganbayan Third Division.

MANILA BULLETIN FILE

Reyes is currently detained at the Taguig City Jail of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) at Camp Bagong Diwa, since she is one of the accused in the alleged P172-million priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam instigated by Janet Lim Napoles.

Reyes filed her motion on May 28, 2020 and pleaded with the anti-graft court to grant her release because her risk of infection from COVID-19 imperils her health and life. As the plea was denied, she filed a motion for reconsideration on September 29, 2020.

She argued that the court “missed the principal point of [her] plea,” which is not based on evidence but on humanitarian grounds.

However, the anti-graft court denied her motion once again because it was filed beyond the reglamentary period. Despite the procedural lapse, the court said there are other reasons for the motion to be junked.

“There are no provisions which allow courts to grant the release of an accused pending trial based on humanitarian grounds,” the court explained. “There are likewise no provisions which empower a court to re-litigate an accused’s right to bail or recognizance when an initial application for bail has already been denied on the ground that the evidence of guilt against the accused is strong.”

Reyes has compared her situation with that of her co-accused, Enrile, who was released from jail several years ago out of humanitarian considerations. However, the court explained that Enrile was able to show that his continued detention would actually pose significant risks to his health, given his advanced age and ill health that require very special medical attention.

Reyes, on the other hand, can only claim that her continued detention exposes her to the risk of contracting COVID-19. “These are undeniably conjectures or speculations which cannot justify her plea for provisional release pursuant to Enrile,” the court said.

The anti-graft court said it sympathizes with Reyes’ fears and concerns. However, it must “act only within the legal framework provided by our fundamental law on bail.”

The 15-page resolution was written by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang with the concurrence of Associate Justices Ronald Moreno and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.

Meanwhile, Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Geraldine Faith Econg offered dissenting opinions.

 
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