THE COURT OF APPEALS on Tuesday nullified the creation of a Justice Department panel that recommended the filing of criminal charges against former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario for the murder of environmentalist and radio broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega in January 2011.
The CA ruling effectively voids the findings of that panel against the Reyes brothers, who are believed to be in hiding in Vietnam.
TV5’s online site Interaksyon said Mario Reyes’ legal counsel Ferdinand Topacio was “expectedly happy with the ruling.”
“The Court of Appeals, in deciding for Mayor Reyes, has applied the laws and the relevant jurisprudence with an even eye and a steady hand. This is as it should be,” Interaksyon quoted Topacio as saying.
Ortega’s daughter, Mika Ortega, said the family was still in shock over the CA decision.
“Comes as a punch in the gut,” Ortega told the PCIJ. Ortega said the family will release an official statement later.
Doc Gerry Ortega was assassinated by a gunman on Jan. 24, 2011 in Puerto Princessa City. The gunman, who was immediately arrested by the police, identified his other accomplices, leading to the arrest of several more people up the chain of command. In the end, the man who claims to have been the organizer of the attack turned state witness, and identified the Reyes brothers as the ones who ordered him to execute the murder.
However, the first panel of prosecutors formed by the DOJ ruled that there was no probable cause against the Reyes brothers. In the ensuing outcry, the Justice Department reconstituted a new prosecution panel that ruled in favor of filing murder charges against the Reyes brothers in March this year. The second panel was the one that the Court of Appeals voided.
A documentary produced by the PCIJ on the Doc Gerry Ortega murder