SolGen Calida asks CA to rearrest Joel Reyes
MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to reverse its decision freeing former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and to order his immediate rearrest.
In a motion for reconsideration submitted to the CA's former Special 11th Division on Monday, January 22, and released to media on Tuesday, January 23, Calida said the CA should reconsider giving weight to the testimony of witness "Bomar" Edrad.
In nullifying the lower court's finding of probable cause in the murder charge against Reyes for the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega, the majority of the CA's Special 11th Division had said Edrad's testimony falls under the rule called res inter alios acta.
It means the statement of an accused cannot be taken against another co-accused. The CA ruled that Edrad's admission to a conspiracy pointing to Reyes is his liability alone, and not Reyes'.
Citing a past Supreme Court (SC) ruling, Calida said Edrad's testimony is already considered "a judicial admission" that is "admissible in evidence against those it implicates."
"It was grave error for this Honorable Court to dismiss the present case. It made the brazen declaration 'no evidence, no conviction' in its January 4, 2018 decision, among others," the Solicitor General said.
Echoing the justices who dissented in the CA decision, Calida added: "This conclusion is clearly premature. It bears repeating that the absence or presence of conspiracy is factual in nature and involves evidentiary matters appropriate for trial. It is also wrong."
For the Solicitor General, the CA should have considered Reyes' flight as "determining evidence of his guilt as part of probable cause." The former Palawan governor went into hiding before he was arrested in Thailand in 2015.
In a separate case, Reyes was convicted of one count of graft by the Sandiganbayan, but his appeal of that conviction allows him to stay free. Ombudsman prosecutors have asked the anti-graft court to order his imprisonment, also saying he is a flight risk. The Sandiganbayan has yet to resolve that issue.
Calida said the CA decision "stinks" and vowed to find "where the stench is coming from."
"No doubt, the CA decision has eroded the faith and trust the people of the Philippines reposed in it to render a decision in this petition that is just and fair," Calida said. – Rappler.com