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Gigi Reyes gets writ of habeas corpus, is released from jail

The former Senate chief of staff of Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile has been released from the Taguig City Jail, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said on Thursday night.

In a statement, the BJMP said Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes was released from jail around 6:30 p.m.

This developed after the Supreme Court granted Reyes' petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which she questioned the length of her detention after she was charged with plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam in 2014.

Prior to her release, Reyes had been in detention since July 9, 2014.

"The writ of habeas corpus is available to petitioner. Her confinement, though in accordance with a court order of the Sandiganbayan, violates her constitutional right to speedy trial and infringes on her right to liberty," the SC First Division said in a resolution dated January 17.

"Indeed, nine years is far too long of a detention pending the resolution of a criminal case. If petitioner were to wait for a final judgment before seeking effective relief, then it might be too late for her to genuinely enjoy her liberty. By then, justice delayed would truly be justice denied," it added. 

'Vexatious restraint'

Enrile and his co-accused, including Reyes, are alleged to have amassed P172.8 million in kickbacks from 2004 to 2010 through non-government organizations associated with former businesswoman Janet Napoles.

The 98-year-old former senator spent over a year under hospital arrest before the SC granted him bail on humanitarian grounds in August 2015.

In Reyes' case, the SC said she was able to prove that her detention "had become a form of vexatious restraint, despite being detained by a virtue of a court order."

According to Reyes, the trial at the Sandiganbayan was delayed due to incorrect markings in the prosecution's evidence.

"Petitioner further contextualized the delay by noting that thousands of bundled marked exhibits are to be considered by the Sandiganbayan," the SC said.

The SC also said that the Sandiganbayan has so far allowed only one witness per day and cited Reyes' statement that the trial only began on March 3, 2022.

"[A]fter much consideration of all the facts and circumstances attendant to the case, this Court finds that the prosecution has not been able to explain the said prolonged proceedings," the resolution said.

Meanwhile, the high court ordered Reyes to personally attend the hearings of the case, submit a quarterly report to the Clerk of Court of the Sandiganbayan of her whereabouts, secure a travel authorization from the anti-graft court if she plans to go abroad, and submit a report of her return within five days of her arrival in the country.

She must also provide the SC with a quarterly report of her compliance with the conditions.

"The release of petitioner shall be without prejudice to her re-arrest and detention should she fail to comply with any of the conditions," the resolution stated. —VBL, GMA Integrated News