OSG to appeal Joel Reyes’ shocking acquittal

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Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Monday said the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) will be in charge of filing an appeal on the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling which cleared former Palawan governor Joel Reyes of murder charges in connection with the killing of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega.

“It is the OSG that is in charge of the case since it is on appeal,” Aguirre said in a text message sent to reporters when asked for a comment.

Aguirre explained the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors only handle the litigation of the case before the regional trial court (RTC).

Aguirre said the OSG would have to study if the Reyes’ acquittal by the appellate court barrd the government from filing an appeal.

“The filing of an appeal depends on the CA ruling — if it will constitute double jeopardy,” he explained, referring to the legal doctrine that prohibits filing of the same criminal case against the same accused already cleared by court.

The former governor was freed from Palawan City Jail Friday after the CA, in a ruling, found no basis for the Palawan Regional Trial Court to order his arrest or convict him for Ortega’s death.

According to the CA’s Former Eleventh Division, Special Division of Five, there was no evidence presented to try Reyes for Ortega’s killing.

“Our hands are tied by our bounded duty to administer justice and abide by the law. No evidence, no conviction. So be it,” the appellate court said in its 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro.

“This Court could only hope that he would take advantage and give full-faith and meaning to this second lease on life given him. He is definitely saved from the 20 year or so imprisonment metable to the offense charged,” read the decision dated Jan. 4, 2018.

“Call it a second chance afforded him by God, or a lucky three-point play for him to use a common street lingo or a miracle in his favor, the petitioner (Reyes) must by all means be exonerated from the charge,” it said.

The special division of five justices of the CA division voted 3-2 to acquit Reyes.

The two magistrates who dissented — Associate Justices Maria Filemona Singh and Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob — held that the determination of probable cause in issuing the arrest rests on the trial judge handling the case.

On Saturday, Ortega’s daughter Mika lamented that the CA decision came only a few weeks before the seventh anniversary of her father’s murder, or as she called it, “seven years of fighting for justice and press freedom.”

Ortega, who has been hailed as an environmental hero, was gunned down on Jan. 24, 2011 in Puerto Princesa City after having just finished his radio program “Ramatak”.

The gunman, Marlon Recamata, was arrested and pleaded guilty to murder charges in February, 2011.

Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, have been tagged by Recamata as the masterminds behind the killing of Ortega who had criticized the former governor for the supposed destruction of the environment in the province. (PNA)