Palace to appeal ruling that cleared ex-governor of broadcaster's murder
THE Philippine government will exhaust legal remedies to overturn the Court of Appeals' decision that absolved former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes of liability in the 2011 murder of environmentalist broadcast er Gerry Ortega, Malacañang said on Monday, January 8.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said he would meet with Solicitor General Jose Calida and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II this week to discuss the executive department's plan to file a motion for reconsideration after the appellate court ordered the release of Reyes, who was accused of killing Ortega.
"We have gotten a decision from the Regional Trial Court that the evidence that against former governor Joel Reyes is strong, which prompted the court to dismiss the petition of bail. We will exercise all legal options to reverse this decision of the Court of Appeals," Roque, who served as legal counsel of Ortega family, told Palace reporters.
"Because of my awkward position, I can say that I think the government will exhaust all remedies, including filing first a motion for reconsideration," he added.
In a 24-page ruling, the Court of Appeals ordered to nullify the arrest order issued by Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court Branch 52 against Reyes, noting that there was lack of evidence
to prove the former Palawan governor’s supposed involvement in Ortega’s slay.
Ortega, an environmentalist and radio host who frequently accused Reyes of corruption, was gunned down in Palawan on January 24, 2011.
Reyes and his brother, former Coron town mayor Mario Reyes, were implicated in Ortega’s death. They were arrested in 2015 in Thailand but Mario was granted bail in May.
For Roque, the CA’s ruling on Ortega’s case was “alarming” and a “travesty of justice” as he noted that there was a “strong” evidence against Reyes.
Roque said the appellate court’s decision was a “very sad” development for the freedom of the press in the country, stressing that Ortega’s killing was “a classic case of extralegal killing.”
“As former private prosecutor in the case, I only left the case June 30, 2016, when I took my oath as member of the 17th Congress. At that time, we have concluded presentation of all evidence for the prosecution, and the defense had already concluded its presentation of evidence, and there was already a decision of the lower court that evidence of guilt was strong against former Governor Joel Reyes,”
“So I find it alarming that this CA decision, number one, overruled an earlier Supreme Court decision; and number two, arrogated its own judgment for that of the Regional Trial Court that had the opportunity to physically accept the evidence, observe the demeanor of the witnesses, and concluded that there was, in fact, probable cause,” he added. SunStar Philippines