Appeals court junks DOJ bid vs Reyes ruling


Justice Secretary Leila de Lima: Grave abuse of authority. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA Philippines—The Court of Appeals has junked a motion by the Department of Justice to reconsider its November 2012 decision nullifying the department’s indictment of former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron town ex-Mayor Mario Reyes, for the murder of broadcaster Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega.

In a decision dated April 4, the court’s former special fifth decision said there was “no compelling reason” to reverse the decision, which ruled that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima committed grave abuse of authority when she constituted a second investigation panel to review the findings of a first panel which cleared the Reyes brothers of the crime in 2011.

The appeals justices reiterated that De Lima had “gone astray” when she created the second panel, disregarding the Rules of Court and the rules on appeal by the National Prosecution Service.

Probable cause

What the secretary should have done was to allow the first panel to act on the appeal of the private complainant, Ortega’s widow, regarding the exclusion of the Reyes brothers from the charge.

In March 2012, the second panel found probable cause to file murder charges against the Reyes brothers.

The court dismissed the DOJ’s reasoning that the second panel was created to correct any injustice that may have been caused by the rejection by the first panel of additional evidence offered by the private complainant.

The justices noted that the the “new pieces of evidence” presented, though not formally offered by the private complainant to the second panel, were the same ones rejected by the first.

Cold neutrality

“The Secretary of Justice is, indeed, the representative of the people in prosecuting the case in court after a finding of probable cause and information has already been filed, but not during preliminary investigation where she acts as a quasi-judicial officer and should comport herself with the cold neutrality of a judge,” the court said in the 20-page ruling penned by Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba.

The other members of the division, Justices Ramon Cruz and Myra Garcia-Fernandez, concurred.

In the same ruling, however, the justices rejected Mario Reyes’ motion for clarification that sought the nullification of the proceedings, including the issuance of the arrest warrant against him, at the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court where the second panel had filed the murder case.

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