Everybody seems eager to hear Jessica “Gigi” Reyes “sing” but not Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Palace officials.
This could be because officials believe that Reyes is not a vital witness and will not bolster the case against lawmakers accused of pork-related plunder.
Sen. Francis Escudero is convinced that the Department of Justice already has a strong case against the respondents and may not need Reyes to testify.
Escudero explained that cases had been filed against the accused in the PDAF scam, and the Ombudsman, after looking at pieces of evidence submitted by the DOJ, found probable cause to indict all the respondents, including Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
He said there is enough evidence against those implicated in the scam, the reason de Lima is having doubts on whether to consider Reyes as a state witness.
The DOJ also doubts if Reyes will testify against senator Juan Ponce Enrile, her former boss.
Denying that the government had a hand in the return of Reyes, Malacanang on Monday said making Reyes talk is not among the priorities of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the President was preoccupied with a lot of things during the Holy Week and that they had not spoken about the arrival of Reyes, who is facing plunder charges along with her former boss, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and other lawmakers.
Reyes was Enrile’s former chief of staff.
“We have no project to make her talk or ask her to do anything against her own initiative,” Coloma said amid calls for Reyes to spill the beans and tell the truth. Some witnesses in the pork barrel scam have claimed that it was Reyes who accepted Enrile’s commissions from various ghost projects funded by the senator’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
“We haven’t talked about it because in the past days the President was busy with many priorities and that’s not one of them,” Coloma told reporters.
He clarified that they would have no control over Reyes if she chose to side with the government. If she did, Coloma said, the lawyer would have to go through the legal process.
He noted that even de Lima did not invite or reach out to Reyes’ camp to discuss the possibility of her becoming a witness in PDAF scam.
The Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Janet Lim Napoles and several others linked to the misuse of public funds.
But Coloma said he is yet to personally speak with the Justice chief.
“I just saw [de Lima’s]statement and according to her, there was no invitation or discussion” between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Reyes, he added.
At best, Coloma explained, the DOJ can only dig up pieces of evidence that can help in the quest for justice. He said all testimonies, including that of Reyes, will be welcome because these can help build up the case against the main respondents.
He maintained that neither Malacanang nor de Lima had initiated talks with Reyes.
“No such thing happened,” Coloma said, adding that the DOJ has done its part in filing a case before the Office of the Ombudsman.
According to him, the government cannot prevent Reyes from leaving the country again if she wants to because of an existing prohibition from the court for the Justice department to issue a hold departure order (HDO) against the lawyer.
“The [DOJ] has no power to issue an HDO because it was restrained by the Supreme Court,” Coloma said.
He noted that Revilla was also allowed to visit the Holy Land recently.
“There are governing laws and process regarding that. We saw the lawmakers who were named in the resolution [of the Ombudsman]who were able to freely travel abroad because there was no restraint on their movement,” Coloma said.
De Lima also on Monday said she knew nothing about Reyes’ intention to return but that the lawyer is still one of the principal suspects in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
She added that she does not think that Reyes also has any “intention” to become a state witness.
De Lima said she is reserving further comments until she is able to establish Reyes’ “real agenda.”
As the former Enrile chief of staff arrived from the United States last Saturday after eight months and vowed to face the plunder charges against her, lawmakers also on Monday said her return to the country could boost the pork barrel scam case if she talked.
If Reyes is the only one who can pin down Enrile, then she should speak out and tell the truth, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said also on Monday.
Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action, said the right time has come for Reyes to spill the beans on the pork barrel scam.
“It’s her moral obligation to tell the truth,” Gariguez added.
He urged the public not to be deceived about the alleged secret “relationship” between Reyes and Enrile, obviously referring to the romance between the senator and his employee.
Gariguez said the issue that the people should be vigilant of is the corruption in the government, not the alleged romance.
Lawmakers, meanwhile, expressed openness to a request of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago for the Senate blue ribbon committee to invite, if not summon, Reyes to hear her testimony on the pork barrel scam.
Sen. Grace Poe said it is only proper for the panel to give Reyes an opportunity to answer the allegations made against her by witnesses.
“A Senate hearing tends to fuel the people’s participation in the formulation of government policies. Whether it [Reyes’ testimony] contradicts the initial committee report, the important thing is we should be able to determine what the truth is,” Poe added.
In a letter to the blue ribbon panel, Santiago said, “I believe that the testimony of [Reyes] would serve to round off and clarify certain aspects of the partial report, and that the committee findings could be the proper subject of an addendum or similar subsequent report on [Reyes’ testimony].”
The Senate partial report, which the senator had signed and which had recommended the filing of charges against Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, Napoles and others implicated in the scam, seemed to have closed the chamber’s inquiry into the case.
Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito and Antonio Trillanes 4th are also in favor of reopening the inquiry.
Escudero also said he has nothing against the request to reopen the blue ribbon PDAF inquiry and allow Reyes to give her side on the issue.
The Manila Times tried to get blue ribbon panel chairman Teofisto Guingona 3rd’s reaction on the clamor to have Reyes invited by the committee but the senator was not available.
With Reports From Robertzon F. Ramirez and Jefferson Antiporda