MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – After going into hiding for 3 years, two former Palawan officials implicated in the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega have returned to the province to face the murder charges filed against them by the Ortega family.
Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and ex-Coron mayor Mario Reyes were turned over to the Puerto Princesa city jail on Friday afternoon, September 25, said the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Chief Superintendent Victor Deona in a text message to Rappler.
According to Deona, the commitment order for the Reyes brothers’ arrest was issued by Executive Judge Jose Bayani Usman of the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 52.
Superintendent Danny Macerin, CIDG National Capital Region chief who accompanied the brothers to Palawan, added that the jail warden “properly received” the Reyes brothers at about 4 pm.
Rod Valmoria, lawyer of the Reyes brothers, earlier told reporters that the PNP has arranged the brothers’ flight to Puerto Princesa sometime at 1 pm on Friday, a national holiday.
He said the lawyers of the brothers intend to file a petition for bail next week.
“Surprisingly, they were able to make an arrangement with the court,” said Valmoria.
Valmoria said he preferred the brothers to stay in Metro Manila for their medical check-up because Joel and Mario have high blood pressure. Mario is also reportedly nursing a fever.
However, a doctor who checked on the status of the Reyes brothers inside the PNP CIDG building deemed them physically fit to travel.
Deona confirmed with Rappler that the PNP was able to make arrangements for the Puerto Princesa RTC to receive the warrants of arrest within the day. “We don’t want them to stay longer here [in Camp Crame] because the camp is not the proper [place of] detention [for them],” Deona added.
The Reyes brothers’ relatives visited them at the PNP CIDG building before the two left Camp Crame to go to the airport.
The brothers are accused of plotting the murder of RMN Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Ortega in 2011. (READ: Timeline: Gerry Ortega murder case)
The slain broadcaster exposed corruption in Palawan and accused Joel of misusing the Malampaya fund, sourced from operations of the Malampaya gas and oil fields off the coast of the province.
Nabbed in Phuket
The Reyes brothers fled to Thailand in 2012 but did not book a return flight. They remained at large until Thai immigration authorities captured both men in Phuket on Sunday, September 20, for overstaying.
With the help of an informant whose identity has not been disclosed to the media, the PNP CIDG and their Thai counterparts were able to track down the brothers and arranged their return to Manila on September 25.
The PNP CIDG held a press conference Friday morning to discuss the circumstances of the brothers’ arrest. Joel and Mario were briefly presented before members of the media.
Valmoria said the Reyes camp is “still confident that evidence is not strong.”
“We will fight it out in court. It’s most likely that we will file a petition for bail. At least by this time, magkaka-alaman, magprepresenta sila ng testigo. Hindi na lang papel-papel na lang ang pagbabasihan.” (Witnesses will now be presented. We won’t just be relying on documents.)
Gerry Ortega’s daughter, Erika, was at the PNP CIDG building on Friday to thank them for their efforts to solve her father’s case.
However, Erika said she still has “mixed emotions” about the recent developments in the investigation.
“Kung sa nararamdaman, di ko ma-explain eh. Tama nga ‘yung sinabi ng ate ko na talagang mixed emotions. Somehow grateful din kasi umaasa na sana patas ‘yung batas na binibigay sa both sides,” Erika told reporters.
(I can’t explain how I feel. My sister was right when she said there’s mixed emotions. I’m somehow grateful and I’m also hoping that the law will be fair to both sides.)
She said she agrees that the Reyes brothers will be detained in Puerto Princesa so it would be easier for her family to monitor the progress of the case and to check if the brothers would receive any special treatment.
“Tingin ko po ito na ‘yung simula na magkakaroon ng clarity kung ano ba talaga ‘yung nangyari kasi hangga’t di po nagpapakita ‘yung Reyes brothers, hindi po talaga natin matutunton or malalaman talaga ‘yung eksplanasyon nila kasi patay ang kaso hangga’t wala sila e,” Erika added.
(I think this is the start for us to have some clarity on what actually happened. Without the Reyes brothers, we will not find out their explanation. The case is dead as long as the brothers are missing.) – Rappler.com