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MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) asked the Supreme Court to “order the immediate rearrest and detention” of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, the alleged mastermind in the 2011 murder of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega.
In early April, the OSG filed a 62-page comment asking the SC to lift its temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the arrest warrant issued by Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 52 against Reyes.
The OSG also wants the SC to dismiss the petition for review on certiorari that Reyes filed, seeking to junk the November 2019 amended decision of the Court of Appeals (CA) Special Former 11th Division that reinstated the murder case against him.
The SC in March 2022 issued the TRO because Reyes’ petition has yet to be resolved.
The OSG, through Senior State Solicitor Henry Gerald Ysaac Jr. and State Solicitor Dianne Margarette delos Reyes-Gonzales, pointed to the RTC’s finding of strong evidence of Reyes’ guilt.
Ortega, known for his reports on the Malampaya fund scam, was shot dead in Puerto Princesa City on January 24, 2011. In March 2012, the Puerto Princesa RTC ordered Reyes’ arrest over the murder, which he contested. His brother, ex-Coron mayor Mario Reyes, and eight others were also charged.
The CA had nullified the finding of probable cause and the issuance of an arrest warrant against the ex-governor in January 2018, but reversed that decision on November 28, 2019. The CA then directed the RTC to arrest Reyes and to conduct proceedings.
“The RTC’s finding of strong evidence of petitioner’s guilt has, in turn, been affirmed by the Court of Appeals in its decision dated July 9, 2021. With due respect to this Honorable Court, these consistent findings by the RTC and the Court of Appeals superseded and mooted the issue of probable cause,” the OSG told the SC.
The OSG also argued that the SC should allow the trial to continue because the RTC’s issuance of the arrest warrant has legal basis.
Reyes had assailed the RTC’s decision before the CA, saying that the lower court relied on the supposed “uncorroborated statement” of his former bodyguard Rodolfo Edrad, who named him the mastermind.
Besides Edrad’s confession, the CA also heard the sworn statements of other suspects like gunman Marlon Recamata, who was convicted in 2013.