The return of Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, one of the accused of plunder in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, could delay the filing of charges in the case, lawmakers said Saturday.
Reyes, the former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, flew home from the United States early Saturday, eight months after she left Manila.
The Office of the Ombudsman has approved the filing of plunder charges against Reyes, Enrile, Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada, as well as Ruby Tuason, before the Sandiganbayan.
Plunder involves the misuse of at least P50 million of state funds and is a non-bailable offense.
Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao believes Reyes’ arrival “would delay the filing of charges because she could request for a reinvestigation on her case on the ground that she was unable to traverse the complaint by way of counter affidavit.”
Given the gravity of the offense, the Ombudsman may grant Reyes’ request, Aggabao, who is the House Deputy Speaker, said in a text message.
Reyes resigned in January 2013 at the height of the pork barrel controversy. She left the country in August.
Sherwin Tugna, the House Deputy Majority Leader, shared Aggabao’s view that with Reyes back, the filing of the case could be delayed.
Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list said “it might be more prudent for the Office of the Ombudsman to give some time for Mrs. Reyes to provide some information. It would also mean that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will convene again to receive her testimony.”
Other lawmakers welcomed Reyes’ return.
“I am glad that she is confronting the case. As you know, flight could imply guilt. What she does next is going to be important either way,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City said in a text message.
Reyes has filed a motion before the Ombudsman to reinvestigate the plunder charges against her.
From Dasmarinas Rep. Elpidio Barzaga: “It is a bold move [to return]! Her return creates the impression that she is willing to face the music and that she has sufficient evidence to defend herself. Her return is good not only for the prosecution but also for the entire country since we shall be able to hear her version of the pork barrel scam.”
“We cannot definitely say that her return will boost the case of the prosecution but one thing is certain: Attorney Reyes’ return shows her willingness to submit to the jurisdiction of Philippine authorities, face her accusers and seek justice,” Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe added.
After arriving at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal 2 on Philippine Airlines flight from San Francisco, Reyes was escorted by two security personnel out of the terminal.
Immigration sources said Reyes, a business class passenger, was wearing an orange outfit when she was seen queuing at the Immigration counter for clearance.
She reportedly took a flight from Manila to Macau before flying on to the US.
Reyes was implicated by Benhur Luy who has testified before the Senate that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla had released PDAF allocations to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, suspected to be the mastermind of the scam.
Another witness said Reyes received millions of pesos in cash apparently in Enrile’s behalf at a house somewhere in Quezon City.
The Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict Enrile, Estrada and Revilla as well as Napoles.
LLANESCA T. PANTI and BENJIE L. VERGARA