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Appeals court decision releasing former Palawan governor ‘a travesty’

Updated

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang is set to exhaust all legal remedies possible to reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) to release from detention former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes after being indicted as the mastermind behind the killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011.

The CA has nullified the earlier findings of the Department of Justice’s second panel which implicated the former Palawan governor in the killings.

Former provincial governor of Palawan Mario Joel T. Reyes (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

FILE PHOTO: Former provincial governor of Palawan Mario Joel T. Reyes. MANILA BULLETIN

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, in a press briefing, said the CA decision was a travesty and a sad development on the freedom of the press in the country.

“It is not true that the case is a miracle. The case, true, is a kababalaghan (wonder), but is really a travesty of justice,” Roque said, adding that this is the first time he was allowed to make a comment in his own capacity.

“I can say that I think the government will exhaust all remedies including filing first a motion for reconsideration, having said that there was a prior Supreme Court (SC) decision,” he added.

The SC has decided that it is up to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) to find probable cause to indict the former Palawan governor.

“At that time, we have concluded presentation of all evidence for the prosecution, and the defense has 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,” he said.

“This is a sad development for the freedom of the press in this country given that the murder of Gerry Ortega is a classic case of extralegal killing since Gerry Ortega was both a member of the journalism profession, he was a journalist, and he was also an activist,” he added.

According to the Palace official, he will meet with Solicitor General Jose Calida and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to discuss how the government will proceed with the ‘alarming’ decision, including in filing first a motion for reconsideration.

“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 said.

The CA’s order came despite an earlier SC ruling on January 11, 2016, penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

Ortega was broadcast journalist and environmental activist best known for his advocacy against mining in Palawan.

His hard-hitting commentaries have earned him, and even his daughters, death threats since 2009.

He was assassinated in the morning of January 24, 2011 in an ukay-ukay (used clothes) store after he has just finished hosting his morning show for dwAR-FM.

His gunman Marlon Recamata, who confessed to the crime at the Puerto Princesa Police Office, shot the broadcast journalist at the back of the head.

Recamata originally claimed that the motive behind the killing was mere robbery but numerous parties pointed out that it was unlikely given the manner of how Ortega was killed.

Recamata then implicated three of his other cohorts, including Rodolfo Edrad who reportedly confessed at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office in Manila that Reyes was the mastermind behind the killing, along with former Marinduque Governor Jose Antonio Carrion.

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