How Enrile, Reyes waltzed through politics

Posted at 07/04/14 7:16 PM

MANILA - Behind every powerful man is a woman.

That's a very old chestnut , and one that certainly doesn't apply to lawyer Jessica Lucila "Gigi" Reyes, the former chief of staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

By all accounts, Reyes wasn't one to stand behind her powerful boss.

Instead, she was front and center in representing him in meetings, evaluating legislation, and even signing documents and checks on his behalf.

She became so powerful in her own right that she was widely regarded as the so-called "25th senator."

As the pork barrel scam exploded in the public consciousness, her role as Enrile's alter-ego took on a sinister character.

She went from being merely a lawmaker's chief aide to being -- in the eyes of many -- his alleged bagman and paramour.

Facing accusations that she accepted kickbacks from the scam on Enrile's behalf, Reyes fled the country for Macau in late August 2013.

A month later, she would respond to remarks from Enrile's camp that seemed to indicate the senator was distancing himself from her role in the scam, by calling such remarks a "betrayal" from the man she said she had served loyally for 25 years.

"The worst blow has just been dealt upon me by no less than the camp of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile --the man I served with full dedication, honesty and loyalty for 25 years... This very tragic development is beyond my comprehension," she said in a September 2013 Facebook post.

In February this year Reyes received another stunning blow -- this time from socialite Ruby Tuason.

Appearing before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Tuason described how she allegedly met Reyes at posh restaurants in Metro Manila to deliver kickbacks meant for Enrile.

But through the resulting firestorm, Reyes maintained her silence.

Even after she slipped quietly back into the country on Black Saturday, April 19, little was heard from her, other than the filing of motions by her lawyers to dismiss the plunder and graft cases against her.

Her camp insists that those cases will ultimately be dismissed.

But for now, any speculation that she could eventually turn against her former boss seems to have evaporated into thin air.


Reyes' former boss, meanwhile, is a consummate political survivor.

Enrile was one of the architects of Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos.

But as the tide of public sentiment turned against the late dictator, Enrile cast his lot with military rebels following the disastrous snap election of 1986.

He reinvented himself as a champion of reform during the EDSA Revolution and its aftermath.

In the years since, he has proven himself the most durable of politicians.

He has seen 5 Presidents come and go and played both hero and heel in the endless soap opera that is Philippine politics.

Now, under the 6th President, the veteran politico called by many as "Manong Johnny" is again cast as the heel, facing allegations of receiving some P172 million in kickbacks from the pork barrel scam -- supposedly through Reyes.

This won't be the first time Enrile has been arrested.

In 1990, he was arrested inside the Senate premises on rebellion charges in connection with the 1989 coup against the government of then-President Corazon Aquino.

He was released soon after for lack of evidence.

More than a decade later, he was again arrested and detained at Camp Crame -- again tagged in an alleged coup plot against former President Gloria Arroyo -- following a failed Palace siege by supporters of ousted President Joseph Estrada.

Enrile's third arrest is likely to hold few surprises for the 90-year-old.

Enrile has been saying that he's ready to go to jail and even die there.

But given his reputation as a wily player of the game of politics, and his relative silence on the allegations against him, it remains to be seen what aces he could still have up his sleeve, and how he might pull off yet another political resurrection and reinvent himself in the sunset of his life. - with ANC