De Lima hits CA ruling on ex-Palawan governor Reyes' release

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Leila de Lima slammed the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that led to the release of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, who was accused of murdering journalist and activist Gerry Ortega. (READ: Ortegas shocked at release of ex-Palawan governor)

De Lima denounced CA Justice Normandie Pizarro for calling Reyes' release a "miracle" and a second lease on life. Pizarro penned the court decision, with concurrences from Associate Justices Danton Bueser and Victoria Isabel Paredes. (READ: Why CA dissenters call Joel Reyes freedom 'premature, preposterous')

In the ruling, the CA majority said: "Call it a second chance afforded to him by God, or a lucky 3-point play for him, to use common street lingo, or a miracle in his favor, the petitioner must by all means be exonerated from the charge."

"Justice Pizarro must be living in a bizarro world when he fancies himself like Jesus Christ performing a 'miracle' to give the accused Reyes a second chance in life," De Lima said in a note on Tuesday, January 9.

"There is no 'miracle' here, only a gross miscarriage of justice," she said.

De Lima, former justice secretary, had pushed for the case against Reyes. During her time, she created a second panel of prosecutors, after the first panel cleared Reyes. It was the second panel that filed charges against the ex-Palawan governor.

Reyes was freed from jail after the CA ruled that the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court had no basis to hold him for trial over Ortega's murder. (READ: TIMELINE: Gerry Ortega murder case)

The latest CA ruling did not clear Reyes of murder charges, but nullified the finding of probable cause and the issuance of an arrest warrant by the local court.

'It stinks'

Solicitor General Jose Calida also slammed the CA ruling.

"The CA decision stinks. As to where the stench came from, we will investigate it," Calida said.

"We are ready and raring to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be no miscarriage of justice under my watch."

Malacañang, for its part, has said it would spearhead efforts to seek the reversal of the CA ruling.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, former lawyer for Ortega's family, said Duterte gave him permission to speak on the ruling in a personal capacity, given his connection to the case.

"We will exercise all legal options to reverse this decision by the CA....The government will exhaust all remedies including filing first of a motion for reconsideration," said Roque.

Other 'miracles' of the judiciary

While Malacañang and De Lima see eye to eye on the Reyes case, the senator criticized other "miracles" of the judiciary in the time of President Rodrigo Duterte.

She cited the cases of former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada as well as alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and daughter Jeane Napoles.

"The judiciary has been performing several 'miracles' in the past couple of years, exonerating the powerful, influential, and well-connected, either even before trial or after conviction by the trial court," she said.

The senator also lamented the Supreme Court's "complete exoneration" of former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the SC ruling allowing a hero's burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

"To the powerful, influential, and well-connected who have stolen millions of public funds or murdered hundreds of citizens, these might seem to be heaven-sent miracles. But to the public that is already disgusted with the plethora of acquittals and pre-trial exonerations performed by the judiciary, this is already judicial impunity at its worst in the history of the country," De Lima said. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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