Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo on Thursday expressed dismay over the Court of Appeals (CA) decision to quash the murder case against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, allegedly the mastermind in the killing of environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega.
“We are very saddened and dismayed by the ruling,” Arigo told Radio Veritas in an interview.
“Our group and the Ortega family are only asking to have a day in court, to really have a trial and study the pieces of evidence, and (determine) if they are guilty or not. So this is really frustrating,” said the bishop.
Arigo said he believed that his group has enough strong evidence to establish probable cause against Reyes.
The Palawan prelate also said that, with this development, he has begun to lose confidence on the credibility of the justice system in the country.
“This only proves that the pastoral statement released by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) that our culture is a culture of impunity is correct. That if you have connections, if you have money and you committed a crime, you would be absolved,” he added.
Palawan NGO network lawyer Gerti Mayo-Anda likewise criticized the CA’s ruling, saying it gave more weight on the technical aspect rather than the substantive aspect of the case.
“The substantive aspect was lost, it became a technicality. We believe the focus should be on the substantive aspect because the crime is the issue here,” said Anda.
But Anda said the CA decision won’t stop them from supporting the Ortega family in pursuing the case.
A witness to the case was killed recently inside the Quezon district jail in Lucena City in a case that jail officials insisted was suicide but which lawyers of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) said involved foul play.
Dennis Aranas was found dead in his cell at the jail supposedly after killing himself.
But Dr. Erwin Erfe, head of the PAO’s forensic laboratory, said Aranas had contusions in the hands and feet, signs of foul play.
Aranas, 37, who had been tagged as a lookout in Ortega’s murder, was found hanging inside his detention cell at the district jail in Lucena City in Quezon on Feb. 5. His family doubted the results of an autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation that he died of “asphyxia by hanging.”
PAO chief Persida Acosta said Aranas had bruises in the arms and legs, swelling and contusions that could indicate he was a victim of foul play.
“Have you seen someone who had undergone [fraternity] hazing rites? That’s how it looked like,” Acosta was quoted as saying in an earlier Inquirer report.
Acosta said Aranas’ family took pictures of the body immediately after he died. “I did not immediately show the pictures to our forensic doctor. When he stepped out of the examination room, he said he, too, saw the bruises,” she said.