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Faces of the news

/ 06:22 AM January 14, 2018

Maria Filomena Singh and Normandie Pizarro

How can a court pass judgment on the credibility of a witness who has yet to take the stand? Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justices Maria Filomena Singh and Marie Christine Jacob raised this question as they disputed the ruling penned by their senior colleague, Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro, which gave ex-Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes his ticket to freedom and to skip trial for the killing of environmentalist Gerry Ortega. The two justices contradicted Pizarro’s decision belittling the revelations of Rodolfo Edrad Jr., Reyes’ security escort who admitted to hiring Ortega’s assassin allegedly upon his former boss’ order. In their separate dissenting opinions, Jacob and Singh said it would have been best to let the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court (RTC) determine the integrity of the evidence presented by the prosecution and defense by holding a formal trial. Besides, the two justices said Reyes failed to show that the RTC gravely abused its discretion in ordering his arrest. Jacob said the CA “at this particular stage of the proceedings, cannot arrogate upon itself the task of dwelling on factual and evidentiary matters.” For her part, Singh said the appeals court’s “premature” intervention saved Reyes from facing trial, not a “miracle” or a “lucky three-point play” as Pizarro mentioned in the majority ruling. Singh said the evidence presented by the prosecution “tells a clear story—that (Reyes), as former governor of Palawan, prima facie ordered the killing of Dr. Ortega.” In promulgating the court’s ruling, Pizzaro described it as a “miracle” for Reyes, who was accused of masterminding the killing of Ortega, his archcritic. The governor was exonerated purportedly because the only evidence against him was the testimony of the confessed hit team leader, which was deemed riddled with contradictions and inconsistencies.

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Joel T. Reyes

When he boarded a plane out of Palawan province late afternoon on Jan. 5 after the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered his release from the Puerto Princesa City jail, former Gov. Joel T. Reyes had his hair freshly dyed, done earlier in prison as if he knew what was coming. His countenance was far from the unkempt, graying fugitive arrested in Phuket, Thailand, and who was taken back to the Philippines two years ago. Reyes and his lawyers had fought tooth and nail so he could avoid imprisonment after he was named by his own bodyguard as the alleged mastermind in the January 2011 murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega. Last week, the CA, voting 3-2, dismissed the murder case against Reyes and ordered the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court to stop all actions against him. His release, described by the CA as a “miracle,” stunned not only the family of Ortega but Malacañang no less, with the administration vowing to put him back in jail.

Francis Zamora and Guia Gomez

San Juan City Mayor Guia Gomez has yet to accept the election recall petition filed against her by former Vice Mayor Francis Zamora, her opponent in the last elections who lost by 1,000 votes. In a presser on Thursday at her San Juan home, Gomez said she would still think about accepting the recall and would consult her lawyer first. Gomez called the petition unfair and denied there was a loss of confidence in her administration. Zamora filed an electoral protest against Gomez right after the elections but withdrew it later. His camp substituted it with a petition for recall elections filed last Sept. 22, 2017, and signed by 30,000 San Juan City residents. Last Dec. 13, 2017, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc granted the petition and issued a notice of sufficiency, which remains unserved despite several attempts by the local Comelec office since Dec. 14, 2017. Zamora, accusing Gomez of skipping work and evading the service of the recall petition documents, has consistently urged Gomez to come out, report to the City Hall and face the recall petition. Based on the Comelec rule, Gomez should receive the documents personally at her workplace. The family of the Zamoras and the Ejercitos used to be political allies until their rivalry in the last elections. Zamora, criticizing Gomez for calling the Comelec’s approval of the petition for recall unfair, said her reaction was a direct assault to the Comelec en banc. Zamora maintained that only an honest, clean and fair election recall could determine the real will of the people. Gomez’s son, Sen. JV Ejercito, earlier accused Zamora of bullying his mother. During the press con, Gomez had asked what she did wrong to Zamora, whom she said she had treated as her own son and supported in the previous elections. Apparently, Zamora got hurt by Gomez who, he said, broke her promise of supporting him for mayor in the next elections. Gomez denied the accusations saying her term had not ended yet. “It’s Zamora who left,” she said. Zamora said he had already stopped believing Gomez and the Ejercitos and the Estradas, who, he said, was creating a dynasty in San Juan City.

Tahj Minniecon

Local football absorbed a major blow when FC Meralco Manila announced that the club would cease operation. The news shocked the sports community and players like Tahj Minniecon took to social media their sadness over the powerhouse team’s sudden disbandment. “It’s such a sad way to end my time at Meralco Manila FC,” Minniecon, the Australian winger who has played for Meralco since 2014, posted on Twitter. “A sad day for Philippine football. I wish all my teammates and staff members the very best in the next step of their careers.” As one of the bigger clubs in the country, Meralco won the United Football League Cup in 2013 and the Philippine Football Federation National Championship in 2014. It also reached the semifinals of the Singapore Cup in 2012. Sources said the increasing operating cost in the Philippines Football League might have sparked Meralco’s decision to pull the plug on its football club.

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