Enrile denies betraying former chief aide

NO BETRAYAL. Senator Juan Ponce Enrile converses with his colleagues in the Senate on Monday upon his return following his hospitalization last week.

MANILA – Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday denied betraying his former chief of staff, Jessica Gonzales Reyes, his co-accused in the plunder case filed by the National Bureau of Investigation with the Office of the Ombudsman.

“I’m not up to betraying any of my people. I’ve never been know for that,” said Enrile, who appeared at the Senate Monday after being absent for the last three session days.

Enrile was taken to Makati Medical Center Sept. 14 for a urinary tract problem that sent his blood pressure up.

However, when reporters asked him if he indeed authorized Reyes to sign documents related to the release of his pork barrel funds to non-government organizations (NGOs) with links to pork barrel scam suspect Janet Lim Napoles, Enrile refused to answer.

“I will not discuss my case, if you don’t mind. I’ll face the music in the courtroom,” he said.

In a statement issued Sept. 18, Enrile’s lawyer and spokesman, Enrique dela Cruz, said it is unfair to implicate the senator in the P10 billion pork barrel scam because he did not authorize any of his employees, including Reyes, to channel his pork barrel to NGOs.

Dela Cruz said Enrile, who allegedly got a total of P172 million in kickbacks, allocated his funds to local government units (LGUs) only and did not authorize any of his employees to transfer funds to NGOs.

He also said Enrile’s instructions were clear that his funds should be allocated only to LGUs.

“If his people or his employees did not follow his instruction or did something to divert the funds to NGOs, Enrile did not order it,” Dela Cruz said.

Reyes, who had left for Hong Kong before the complaint was filed, took offense at the statement.

“I never once thought that this day would come. I never stepped on anyone’s toes nor abused my position in all the years I served in the Senate. But I have earned the bitter ire and enmity of some people by and large because and in defense of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile,” she said in a statement.

“If indeed these statements are sanctioned by or coming from my former boss, then nothing can be worse than this kind of travesty and betrayal,” Reyes added.

She also said the worst blow had just been dealt upon her by the camp of Enrile, whom she served with full dedication, honesty and loyalty for 25 years.

Reyes said Dela Cruz had been making the media rounds saying Enrile did not give his blessings to any of the acts she performed on his behalf.

“He directly accused me of doing things without the senator’s knowledge and going beyond the authority conferred upon me. Not content, attorney Dela Cruz goes on to say that the office of the senator was investigating me for what he calls katiwalian [corruption], and that I, not the senator, will be liable,” said Reyes.

“I have lost contact with Senator Enrile and this very tragic development is beyond my comprehension. Does this Atty. Dela Cruz really know whereof he speaks? Really? The last time I spoke to the senator from abroad, he maintained that he will stand by the authority he issued to me and that all that I did was faithful and pursuant to his instructions. He even told me to be strong; that we will fight together to prove the accusations against us are false and fabricated,” Reyes said.

Reyes said she left the country last Aug. 31 “to seek some peace and quiet amid the barrage of adverse and downright insulting publicity and commentary” against her in the mainstream and social media.

“I and my family have been deeply disturbed and hurt by the continuous slanted and patently biased reportage regarding my alleged involvement in the so-called P10 billion PDAF scam. Strangers and some elements from the media have attempted to get to our residence pretending to be my relatives,” she said.

She also rebuked a broadsheet (not the Manila Standard) for being cruel to her by maliciously twisting her answers although she answered “in all candor and honesty” the texted questions of its reporter.

When she protested what came out in the paper, Reyes said all she got from this broadsheet was a tiny erratum, claiming the omission was “a clerical error.”

She said this broadsheet evidently has an axe to grind against her. She recalled having accompanied Enrile to a private dinner in Rockwell where they met its editor-in-chief.

During that meeting, Reyes said, the editor openly told them about her deep personal hurt over the senator’s published “Memoirs” which recounted the beginnings of the broadsheet and what she called the unfair portrayal of one of its former bosses.

She remembered Enrile told the editor and the others present at the dinner that Reyes was the one who convinced him to write, finish and publish his memoirs.

“They resent me because of my role in the memoirs and due to my association with Senator Enrile, and for that, I have never gotten any fair treatment from this newspaper. They are determined to destroy me,” Reyes said.

The same newspaper referred to her as “the 25th senator,” she said.

Reyes also pointed out that in one TV newscast, her photograph was flashed four times.

“This kind of media treatment has inflicted so much torment and trauma on my children and my whole family. I wanted to talk to my children to somehow insulate them and prepare them for worse things to come,” she said.

She said before leaving the country, she had already engaged the services of a lawyer to prepare for her defense because as things stood, it was a foregone conclusion that she would be included in the complaint. She added that she intended to defend herself, her name and her honor and to acquit herself from “all the baseless charges and blatant lies” spread about her.

Reyes, who is known by her nickname “Gigi,” hogged the headlines during the controversy over the uneven distribution of funds to senators last December, resulting in a word war between Enrile and Senator Alan Cayetano.

In a privilege speech, Cayetano had insinuated that the decisions of Reyes prevailed over those Enrile. He also suggested that the public should be asking who’s calling the shots in the Senate.

While Cayetano failed to provide any details, he claimed he had “a hundred truths” about Enrile and Reyes “for every lie” that the Senate leader would say against him.

He later told reporters he did not mean to link Enrile and Reyes romantically.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who has also had heated exchanges with Enrile, said the Ombudsman and Justice Department should consider Reyes as a state witness, but he did not elaborate.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Monday said he referred a request by the Blue Ribbon Committee to have Napoles testify before the panel, noting that this might prejudice her case.