Reyes brothers’ arraignment set for Oct 2
MANILA, Philippines – Two former Palawan officials accused of plotting the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega will face in court the murder charges filed against them by the Ortega family on Friday, October 2.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Monday, September 28, that the arraignment of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother, ex-Coron mayor Mario Reyes, has been scheduled for Friday, 8:30 am, by the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 52.
"Naririnig ko sa mga balita kaninang umaga ang arraignment pero tinanong ko si Prosecutor General [Claro Arellano at] ang sabi niya sa Friday ang arraignment (I heard from the news that the arraignment was set for this morning, but I asked Prosecutor General Claro Arellano and he said the arraignment is set for this Friday),” De Lima told reporters in an ambush interview on Monday.
She said the prosecution will likely oppose any moves that the defense would be making to delay the arraignment.
“Kung meron mang moves on the part of the counsels para maderail, madelay o mapostpone ang arraignment, our guidance to the prosecutor is to oppose such moves (If the Reyes brothers’ counsel plans to derail, delay, or postpone the arraignment, our guidance to the prosecutor is to oppose such moves),” she said.
The Reyes brothers are indicted in the killing of RMN Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Ortega, who was shot in the head at point-blank range in 2011. (READ: Timeline: Gerry Ortega murder case)
The slain journalist exposed corruption in the province and accused Joel of misusing the Malampaya fund, sourced from operations of the Malampaya gas and oil fields off the coust of Palawan.
The Reyes brothers fled the country in 2012 after they were ordered arrested. They remained at large until immigration officers from Thailand, where the brothers hid for 3 years, arrested them on Sunday, September 20, for overstaying.
The Philippine police was able to arrest the Reyes brothers and bring them back to the country 5 days later. (READ: Emails, villa photos led to Reyes brothers’ arrest)
They were briefly presented before the members of the media before they were flown to Puerto Princesa.
The Reyes brothers have denied they were responsible behind Ortega’s murder. Joel also told reporters that they were not arrested by the police but rather, they voluntarily surrendered to Thai authorities.
No house arrest?
Reports also said that the Reyes brothers, who are currently detained at the Puerto Princesa city jail, plan to seek permission for a hospital arrest.
However, De Lima said the prosecution plans to oppose this because there is no basis for a hospital detention.
“Naaabuso na ‘yung ganyang move – tama na dapat, wala na dapat ganyan. Napakarami diyan na mga prisoners, whether in detention or convicted prisoners, na may health problems din, mga ordinary prisoners, pero hindi naman sila pinagbibigyan ng mga ganyan. Ang mga privileged few lang ang nabibigyan,” said de Lima.
(That move has been long been abused – it should be stopped. There are a lot of other prisoners, whether in detention or convicted prisoners, who have health problems too, but they weren’t allowed to be detained in a hospital instead. Only the privileged few are usually accommodated.)
“Enough of that, because it is making a mockery of our justice system,” she added.
Lawyer Rod Valmoria, the brothers’ counsel, told reporters on Friday that the Reyes brothers had high blood pressure and Mario was nursing a fever. However, a doctor who visited the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group building had cleared the two safe for travel.
Valmoria also said they plan to fight it out in court and file a petition for bail because they are “still confident that [the] evidence [against the Reyes brothers] is not strong.”
This was countered by De Lima, who said that the prosecution believes there is a strong case against the Reyes brothers.
"Murder is a non-bailable offense pero halos lahat naman ng akusado sa non-bailable cases ay sinusubukan magapply for bail. Pero dadaan ‘yan sa tamang proseso at ano ba ‘yung tamang proseso? Bail hearings at kailangang patunayan ng akusado na hindi malakas ang ebidensya against them. Hindi basta-basta ‘yan binibigyan ng bail nang walang sapat na basehan,” De Lima said.
(Murder is a non-bailable offense but those who are accused usually try to apply for bail. This will pass through the right process, which is what? Bail hearings, and the accused needs to prove that the evidence against them are not strong. We don’t just grant a petition for bail without enough proof.)
The justice secretary also clarified that the Court of Appeals has not lifted nor nullified the brothers’ warrants of arrest issued against them by the Puerto Princesa RTC. – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler