The sorrows that Gigi Reyes faces would seem, to some, as simply just punishment for her role in the “pork barrel scam.” She had served as chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, one of the three senators accused (and now held in detention) for their part in the diversion of public money into private hands.
Sometimes called the “25th senator,” Reyes was said to be particularly powerful during Enrile’s term as Senate president, when she held extraordinary sway in the running of the chamber, in behalf of her boss.
But regardless of her guilt or innocence in the scam, which should be determined in the course of hearings at the Sandiganbayan, does Reyes deserve the treatment she’s now getting in the hands of the antigraft court?
Friends and relatives raise concern about how Reyes is seemingly being singled out for tougher punishment than her coaccused. Enrile is confined in an air-conditioned room at the Camp Crame Hospital after being arraigned in private, away from the media’s prying eyes. The two other senators—Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla—are being held in a especially-renovated custodial center at the PNP compound, which a human rights lawyer described as akin to a “three-star hotel” for detainees. They are joined there by other coaccused in the case, including Revilla’s chief of staff Richard Cambe, who is Reyes’ counterpart. Even Janet Napoles, considered the “brains” behind the operation, has been “enjoying” a stay at stand-alone quarters at a PNP Special Action Forces camp in Laguna.
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IN CONTRAST, Reyes has been ordered detained in a regular city jail, although she has since been staying in an “isolation room” in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, a detention center for political detainees and certain criminals.
Recent reports said Reyes suffered an “anxiety attack” while being booked at Camp Bagong Diwa and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital and then transferred to the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City for a checkup. The court later ordered her return to the detention center.
Many reasons have been advanced to explain Reyes’ alleged panic attack, palpitations and elevated blood pressure. One was that she was frightened by the presence of political detainees in the women’s dormitory who may have been harboring anger at the role played by Enrile in the martial law years when he was defense minister. Another was that she heard “hoots” from men detainees while she was being escorted to her room on the fourth floor. The camp warden later explained that the men were watching a basketball game at the time.
Others may scoff at the sensitivity of a once-powerful woman who is now spooked by dirty looks and loud howls. Indeed, conditions in jails, prisons and detention centers for “ordinary” convicts and accused are far from luxurious, or even humane. But if Reyes deserves to be treated like a criminal, then so should all the other accused in the crime—especially the principals.
Reyes’ camp points out a fact that many seem to have forgotten. Reyes, they said, came home from the United States where she could have stayed for as long as she wanted. “But she wanted to clear her name and trusted in the legal system,” a brother asserts. Why is she being singled out for “special” treatment? Is it in hopes that the harsh treatment would compel her to turn state’s witness, like Ruby Tuason, who was even allowed to travel abroad after she surrendered to authorities? Or are people pulling strings to scare her into silence? Your guess is as good as mine.
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AS THIS is being written, P-Noy is scheduled to speak at the “Gabi ng Pagdiriwang at Pasasalamat (Night of Celebration and Thanksgiving)” which kicks off the 2014 National Science and Technology Week at the SMX Convention Center.
Here’s hoping the President resists the temptation to dwell once more on the Disbursement Acceleration Program, having said a lot (too much, in fact) about it and the Supreme Court decision finding parts of it unconstitutional. I hope he resists the same temptation as well in Monday’s State of the Nation Address.
Anyway, the occasion, hosted by the Department of Science and Technology, is meant to honor the men and women devoting their lives and careers to the pursuit of science and technology for the betterment of the lives of all Filipinos.
Over a recent dinner hosted by Science Secretary Mario Montejo, we were briefed on the various projects being undertaken by the DOST: applying
nuclear science for sterilizing food products; research and development on indigenous organic plants, especially for medicinal purposes; setting up a network of test labs for the accreditation of products for sale; and even the development of advanced weather and climate forecasts and disaster mitigation programs through Project NOAH and Project DREAM.
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“Connections” is a word Montejo seized upon while we marveled at the sheer scale and range of the efforts being expended by the DOST to translate scientific and technological research into practical applications to help not just the economy and trade, but also the quality of life, especially in terms of health and wellbeing, of Filipinos.
Montejo brought to the dinner officials of DOST and attached agencies to explain in detail the workings of the many projects of this once-obscure department.
As the night ended, I couldn’t help reflecting on the years spent on work and devotion by these experts and scientists, some of whom have won international recognition, and whose efforts are at last seeing fruition in practical uses for the national good. They deserve all the accolades coming their way.
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