The Supreme Court has granted the petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus filed by lawyer Jessica Lucila G. Reyes, former chief of staff of then Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, paving the way for her provisional release from the Taguig City Jail.
In a 19-page resolution, the SC’s First Division held that Reyes’ release is warranted as her continued confinement. “though in accordance with a court order of the Sandiganbayan, violates her right to speedy trial and infringes on her right to liberty.
She was charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense, before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged P172.8 million kickbacks from businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) during her stint as chief of staff of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.
Enrile was also charged with plunder in connection with the PDAF scam but was allowed to post bail in August 2015 for humanitarian consideration and for not being a flight risk.
The SC, however, stressed that the grant of habeas corpus should not be construed as the determination of the merit of the actual case.
“What is secured merely the petitioner’s provisional liberty due to vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays in trial.
The principal case shall proceed independently and the court may lawfully exercise its jurisdiction over the proceedings,” the SC said.
The SC has also set conditions for the implementation of writ of habeas corpus which include Reyes’ continued appearance in hearings related to the criminal cases filed against her before the Sandiganbayan; a quarterly submission of periodic report to the Clerk of Court of the Sandiganbayan of her whereabouts; securing travel authority from the Sandiganbayan in cases of foreign travel and to submit a report of her return within five days of her arrival to the country; submission of a report to the SC of her compliance with these conditions.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said Reyes was released from jail around 6:30 p.m. by virtue of the Court’s resolution granting her petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
In January 2021, Reyes filed a petition for habeas corpus before the SC seeking her release from detention on the ground of violations of her right to due process and for a speedy, impartial and public trial.
The former chief-of-staff of ex-Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile has sought the SC’s help for her possible release from detention citing violations of her right to due process and to have “a speedy, impartial and public trial.”
The writ of habeas corpus “is a writ directed to a person detaining another, commanding the former to produce the body of the latter at a designated time and place.”
It extends “to all cases of illegal and arbitrary detention by which any person is deprived of his liberty….”
Reyes, who is a lawyer, filed the petition herself with the assistance of lawyer Estelito P. Mendoza.
Reyes told the SC that she has been detained for six years and seven months or a total of 2,409 days as of last January 12, 2021.In 2016, the SC had dismissed Reyes’ bid to nullify the finding of probable cause and arrest order issued by the Sandiganbayan.
In May last year, the Sandiganbayan denied her plea for provisional release from the female dormitory of Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City at the height of coronavirus disease pandemic.
Image credits: Mike Gonzalez via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA-3.0