Kin of slain broadcaster finds hope in CA decision
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — The family of slain broadcast journalist and environmentalist Gerry Ortega expressed hope on Saturday that they would get justice after the Court of Appeals(CA) reversed an earlier decision that stopped the trial of former Palawan Gov. Mario Joel Reyes and his coaccused.
“[The CA ruling] means the trial will resume in the regional trial court, that the hearings that were not conducted before will resume,” Michaella Ortega, daughter of Gerry, said in a phone interview on Saturday. “Ever since we started, we were single minded… to see it through in the court [even after] almost nine years of legal battles. What the other side just keep on doing is derail or postpone the trial.”
“They hop on technicality after technicality when the only thing we want is for the hearing to continue—for the witnesses to be heard and for the evidence to be looked at,” she added.
Ortega made the remark after the CA, through Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob, reversed an earlier decision and ruled that the appeals court erred in stopping the trial because the arguments of Reyes’ lawyers were evidentiary in nature and are best threshed out in a full-blown trial.
“The Court cannot also ignore the other circumstances that transpired after the filing of the petition. The conviction of Marlon Recamata and Arturo Regalado, petitioner’s coaccused, and the denial of petitioner’s bail application on account of strong evidence of guilt, all the more demonstrate the existence of probable cause and consequently reinforce the necessity of issuing a warrant of arrest against him,” the amended decision said.
Gerry Ortega was gunned down by a hired gunman in 2011 who named Reyes and his younger brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, as the masterminds.
Subsequent investigations led to the indictment of the Reyes brothers and several other people formerly connected with the Palawan provincial government.
In its latest decision, the CA ordered the lower court to proceed on the trial and to issue a warrant of arrest against Reyes.
Meanwhile, Reyes’ lawyer Demetrio Custodio Jr. said they had lodged a motion for reconsideration before the CA to seek a reversal of the reversal.
“My client was disappointed because it was initially decided that the case lacks merit. We maintain [our contention] that the RTC should dismiss the case because there’s not enough evidence to support it,” Custodio said.
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