MANILA, Philippines—Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes through his counsel has asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to inhibit from handling the petition regarding the case against him and his brother on the death of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega.
Reyes has a pending petition for review with the Department of Justice (DoJ) questioning the findings of the second panel of investigators that recommended the filing of murder case against him and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes.
The findings of the second panel led to the issuance of a warrant of arrest by the Palawan Regional Trial Court.
However, the Court of Appeals nullified the creation of the second panel of investigators as well as its findings of probable cause against the Reyeses. The appeals court also reinstated the findings of the first panel clearing the brothers.
In its motion to inhibit, Reyes, through his lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, said De Lima has gone “beyond being an impartial investigator” when she imputed ill motives on the justices of the Court of Appeals.
De Lima, in a statement to the media, said “foul tactics and illicit means that undermine the integrity of the criminal justice system” may have been employed following the appeals court’s ruling.
“The Secretary has shown that she no longer possesses that cold neutrality of an impartial judge, but has become an inquisitor in a persecutorial scheme…This does not augur well for her impartiality in now deciding the pending petition for review by respondent Joel Reyes and which is now before her for resolution,” the motion stated.
They also questioned why De Lima would meet with the relatives of Ortega at the height of the investigation of the case.
“The Secretary of Justice now has difficult choice to make: be guided by amor proprio and pride and insist on acting on the petition for review, thus miring her Department deeper into controversy; or follow the dictates of ethics and delicadeza and the pellucid mandate of jurisprudence and inhibit herself and her department, thus showing to all and sundry that she is, after all, above the fray and desires nothing but justice and due process,” the motion stated.
Aside from seeking De Lima’s inhibition from the case, the motion said “others who may act on behalf of the Secretary [of Justice]” should also inhibit from the case.
“As head of the Department of Justice, there is none higher than her, and her subordinates are all subject to her control and direction…The entire Department of Justice, under the circumstances cannot be expected to do justice to respondent Joel Reyes,” the motion further stated.
The motion added that it should follow the Court of Appeals and reinstate the findings of the first panel that cleared the former governor and his brother.