By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 22, 2014 - 12:00am
 
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MANILA, Philippines - It’s “pointless” to talk about Jessica “Gigi” Reyes being tapped as state witness in the pork barrel scam when businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles may have more useful information for the prosecution, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.
 
“If there’s anyone who should tell all, it is Mrs. Napoles. If Mrs. Napoles would tell all, I will be more interested in that, more than anyone else,” De Lima told reporters in a chance interview.
 
She said Reyes doing a “tell-all” would be “a bonus for the prosecution but it does not necessarily mean that the government is open to making her a state witness.”
 
Moreover, Reyes has not signified any intention to turn state witness, De Lima said.
 
“I think if there’s intention to apply to become state witness there should have been prior advice before she returned to the country, just like what Ruby Tuason did,” De Lima said, referring to the social secretary of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada when he was president. Tuason has implicated Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in the scam.
 
“There was no advice, no prior information about her return. She has not accessed or contacted the DOJ and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) for anything. Everything is still speculative at this point,” she added.
 
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While stressing that she was not totally averse to the idea of having Reyes as state witness, such arrangement would have to undergo “deeper study or evaluation.”
 
De Lima explained that whatever Reyes has to offer may be limited compared to what Napoles can share with the prosecution.
 
Reyes was chief-of-staff of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, for whom she reportedly had received kickbacks from pork barrel projects arranged by Napoles.
 
Reyes, Enrile, Estrada and Napoles were among the more than 30 individuals indicted on plunder and graft charges last April 1 in connection with the alleged embezzling of some P10 billion worth of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the official name of the congressional pork barrel. Also indicted was Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.
 
For the DOJ chief, the best that Reyes could offer is to implicate Enrile, with whom the ombudsman said she enjoyed his “full trust and confidence.”
 
“If attorney Gigi Reyes will tell all, of course that would probably cover only about JPE (Enrile). But with Mrs. Napoles, a tell-all narrative would cover every one of the respondents,” De Lima pointed out.
 
She also said the documentary and testimonial evidence against Enrile are strong enough to stand scrutiny by the Sandiganbayan, as “exhaustively discussed” in a resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman.
 
The DOJ chief said it would be important to determine the real motive of Reyes in surfacing at this stage of the prosecution of the cases.
 
She reiterated that at this point, Reyes would have to face the charges as one of the principal respondents.
 
De Lima emphasized that Reyes is not yet considered a fugitive since no case has been filed against her with the Sandiganbayan.
 
But De Lima warned that if Reyes decides again to leave the country, “we will act accordingly.”
 
Reyes returned to the country on Black Saturday from the United States. She left the Philippines in August last year after she was linked to the PDAF scam.
 
No Palace hand
 
Malacañang, meanwhile, denied it had a hand in the return of Reyes and assured the nation she would not be forced to say or do anything against her will.
 
In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the most important thing was for the public to find out the truth about the alleged misuse of PDAF.
 
“We will just wait for the proper process of law. We have no project to force her to speak or to convince her to do anything that is not of her own initiative,” he said.
 
He said public accountability was paramount and that those involved in the scam must be held accountable based on evidence.
 
Coloma said De Lima had stated she had neither invited nor spoken to Reyes regarding the case. He reiterated the government had never been selective in the investigation and prosecution of the case.
 
He said it’s up to the DOJ to determine if Reyes can be made state witness, although it’s ultimately the Office of the Ombudsman which can decide on the matter.
 
Coloma also stressed, “The government has done what it could when the Department of Justice included her (Reyes) name in the list of those alleged to have played a role (in the pork barrel scam).”
 
At the Senate, Sen. Francis Joseph Escudero said Reyes’ chances of being taken in as state witness would depend on how far she would be willing to go to implicate Enrile.
 
Reyes, Escudero said, should undergo the processes provided by law for anyone applying to be state witness.
 
“She should give her testimony. There are requirements under the Rules of Court… It should have her permission,” Escudero said.
 
He said it’s the Sandiganbayan – not the DOJ – which should decide if Reyes is qualified to stand as state witness since she and the others have been indicted.
 
On reports that Reyes’ decision to return from hiding abroad could be part of her legal strategy. Escudero said it is within the rights of an individual to come back and face the charges being leveled against her.
 
Reopen hearing
 
Escudero also said he does not see anything wrong with the call of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to reopen the hearings of the Blue Ribbon committee even if it had early on released a draft of the committee report on the pork barrel scam.
 
Reyes is welcome to air her side before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, Escudero said.
 
Santiago has sent a letter to committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III requesting that Reyes be asked to face the body.
 
“I believe the testimony of attorney 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 attorney Reyes’ testimony,” Santiago said.
 
In a telephone interview with reporters yesterday, Santiago said that she would prefer to hold the hearing immediately or anytime before Congress resumes session on May 5.
 
Allowing Reyes to testify before the Blue Ribbon committee, Santiago said, would pave the way for the perpetuation of her testimony just in case something untoward happens to her later.
 
“If I were Enrile, as one of the major suspects in the case of plunder, I certainly do not want my own chief of staff to assume the status of a state witness because she will tell all against me,” Santiago said.
 
“So there could be a lot of maneuverings before attorney Reyes gets to speak her turn in a public forum like a Senate media conference. That’s why I want the hearing to be held before the session resumes May 5,” she added.
 
Santiago said that the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman should seriously consider making Reyes a state witness because her testimony would only help their cases against the accused in the pork barrel scam.
 
“For me, the best way to advance the interests of the public in unearthing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, is to make as many state witnesses as possible testify if not before the Sandiganbayan immediately, because it might take a lot more months or even years, at least before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee so they can watch these people on television,” she said.
 
“The testimony of Atty. Gigi Reyes could be the seal of guilt for all the accused,” she added.
 
‘People’s participation’
 
Sen. Grace Poe, for her part, said making Reyes testify before the Blue Ribbon committee would allow the public, particularly ordinary citizens, to “weigh in on many different issues” and “form their own judgments on the matter.”
 
“She should also be given the opportunity to answer the allegations against her,” Poe said.
 
“I am always of the view that aside from aiding legislation, a Senate hearing tends to fuel the people’s participation in the formulation of government policies,” she added.
 
Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Antonio Trillanes IV also voiced support for the reopening of the Senate hearing on the PDAF case.
 
“I’m open to a special hearing of the Blue Ribbon committee but only after getting an assurance from her lawyer that she would tell all. Otherwise, it would be a waste of time and might end up like the testimony of Napoles,” Trillanes said.
 
Osmeña said Guingona should first “interview” Reyes just to get a sense of what she would say in a Senate hearing. “Otherwise, we waste time and money,” he said.
 
For Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) executive secretary Fr. Edu Gariguez, Reyes should now “speak out and tell everything she knows about the alleged P10-billion pork barrel fund scam” now that she’s back in the country.
 
“If she’s really not involved in the scam then she should clear her name,” said Gariguez said.
 
“If she’s the only one who can pin down the senator to prove his alleged involvement in the scam, then she should speak out and tell the truth. It’s her moral obligation to tell the truth,” he added.
 
Meanwhile, Napoles will undergo operation tonight to remove a myoma in her uterus at the Ospital ng Makati (Osmak), her lawyer Faye Isaguirre-Singson confirmed yesterday.
 
Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 150 Judge Elmo Alameda earlier allowed hospital confinement for the ailing Napoles.
 
She was ordered detained at the Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for a serious illegal detention case filed by main whistle-blower and former employee Benhur Luy. With Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez, Aurea Calica, Evelyn Macairan, Mike Frialde
 
 (The Philippine Star) | 
 
 
MANILA, Philippines - Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II may face suspension under the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club’s handbook for member-employee relations following his outburst during a round of golf with guests earlier this month.
 
The club itself has put in motion a formal hearing based on the report filed by the starters on the Cabinet official, who resented the staff’s dispatch of duties.
 
Wack Wack president Philip Ella Juico, who was to arrive last night from Bangkok where he attended the Asian Women’s Volleyball Club Championship, will meet with club officials today, particularly membership committee head Federico Campos and general manager Francisco Legarda.
 
The investigation is based on the report filed by the employees, who said Roxas berated and cursed them for demanding payment of the green fee for a golf pro whom Roxas had invited to give lessons to his guest.
 
Reports submitted to club administration said the incident took place on April 6 at the exclusive club’s registration office.
 
“I still have to meet with my colleagues at Wack Wack, who will look into this and will come up with action after a sober and objective assessment,” Juico told The STAR.
 
The committee will look into the report and determine the course of action to be taken against Roxas, who had been a club member for years, and the gravity of the offense.
 
Roxas reportedly lost his cool and started cursing and berating the club personnel, who insisted that he pay the pro’s green fee.
 
“We have long established a functioning system that looks into these matters. The rules and processes will be evenly applied to all members,” said Juico.
 
There were sentiments allegedly from the general members of the club that Roxas had stepped out of bounds as the incident put Wack Wack in a bad light and brought to mind several cases of employee abuse that led to a series of suspensions in the past.
 
One employee appeared certain that Roxas will be suspended, as he cited a guideline in the handbook protecting employees from abusive members.
 
The handbook was reportedly crafted during the time of Wack Wack founder Bill Shaw in 1930 who ironically spearheaded the drive to build a new club on an issue of discrimination against Filipinos who suffered in the confines of the established club in Caloocan in 1930s.
 
One employee said the handbook was implicit on member-employee relations, adding that through the guidelines they are protected against abusive members.
 
He cited the recent case of a leading Wack Wack official who was suspended for one year for slapping a waiter.
 
The son of a top club official was also suspended for berating and cursing at waiters and kitchen staff whom he accused of “stealing” some Spam luncheon meat that he had asked the kitchen to cook for him and his guests.
 
Roxas earlier sent a letter to club members, giving his side on the incident where he maintained that he did not badmouth any of the club personnel.
 
The controversy, which The STAR carried on the front page last week, went viral and made the rounds of various golf clubs during the Lenten break.
 
 
 
By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | 
 
 
 
President Aquino welcomes boxing champ and congressman Manny Pacquiao during a courtesy call at Malacañang yesterday. WILLY PEREZ
MANILA, Philippines - Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao yesterday paid a courtesy call on President Aquino at Malacañang, more than a week after he beat American Timothy Bradley in their rematch at Las Vegas.  
 
Pacquiao, the representative of Sarangani province, shook hands with Aquino at the Music Room of the Palace. They also shared stories on how the boxing icon regained his WBO welterweight title, among others.  
 
“They exchanged pleasantries for about 40 minutes,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told reporters.  
 
Coloma, who was present during the courtesy call, said Pacquiao also discussed concerns on the delayed construction of farm-to-market roads in Sarangani borne out of the attacks by lawless elements who went to the “extent of burning road construction equipment.”  
 
“The President said he will instruct law enforcement authorities to take action on this matter,” Coloma said.  
 
Pacquiao also vowed to help in the government’s campaign to raise awareness on MERS-coronavirus among overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East and to convince them to observe preventive measures being implemented by the Department of Health. 
 
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On the lighter side, the boxing icon talked about his excitement on welcoming the newest member of his family. His wife Jinkee, the vice governor of Sarangani, is expected to give birth to their fifth child – to be named Israel – anytime this week. 
 
“They then exchanged notes on the prevailing cold weather in Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada. The President reminisced about his family’s winter experience during his father’s medical furlough in Boston, Massachusetts,” Coloma recounted.
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