Palace: Probe BI over Reyes escape
MANILA, Philippines – If indeed immigration agents aided the escape of Palawan's high-profile fugitives, the government said it will not leave them unpunished.
The Palace on Thursday, August 30, pushed for an investigation on the alleged involvement of Bureau of Immigration (BI) personnel in the escape of former Palawan Gov Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes. The bureau is headed by retired general Ricardo David, former Armed Forces chief of staff.
The Reyes brothers allegedly flew to Vietnam, using fake identities, to escape prosecution over the murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerardo Ortega in January 2011. The Reyeses have been in hiding since an arrest warrant was issued against them last March 27.
In a press conference Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the Palace will leave it to either the Department of Justice (DOJ) or BI to investigate the escape.
“Hindi ho puwede ang ganoong sistema na bigla na lang nakakalabas ng bansa ang isang taong wanted po natin at saka at large po. And certainly, 'yung pagkapatay po kay Ginoong Gerry Ortega is a heinous crime,” Lacierda explained. (We cannot condone the system where those who are wanted and at large can easily leave the country. And certainly, the murder of Mr Gerry Ortega is a heinous crime.)
'Stand your ground'
In a related statement, the Ortega family requested the Court of Appeals on Thursday “to stand its ground," and keep the murder charges and warrants of arrest against the Reyeses, despite the suspects' wishes.
To do otherwise and heed the Reyeses' motion, said the Ortega family, is “horrific injustice.” They also said the brothers' flight “puts our system of justice in bad light.”
The family cited President Benigno Aquino III's directive to increase the bounty for the Reyeses, as well as other high-profile fugitives. Aquino had raised to P2-M the reward for information for each of the brothers' arrest.
The world's largest police organization, the Interpol, has also placed the Reyes brothers on its wanted list.
“We are issuing this appeal in light of information confidentially relayed to us that the family and supporters of the fugitive brothers are doing everything and anything possible to get a favorable decision from the Court of Appeals,” the Ortegas said.
A broadcaster, the late Ortega had criticized Reyes in his radio programs.
In a piece for Rappler's Move.PH, Ortega's daughter lamented the murder of the person she called "number 142" – her father – referring to the number of journalists' murders since 1986. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines claims at least 150 have been murdered, like Ortega.
The late broadcaster's daughter, Mika, said some of Palawan's political figures have engaged in a cover-up for former Governor Reyes.
"In the end, all that we need to keep the culture of impunity is to not care and watch idly by as our own government guarantees the safety of masterminds. Conversely, the only way to rid ourselves of this culture is by shouting with the victims and putting wanted fugitives, like Reyes and Palparan, behind bars," she said. – Rappler.com