New arrest warrant out for ex-Palawan governor in Ortega slay | Inquirer News
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New arrest warrant out for ex-Palawan governor in Ortega slay

By: - Correspondent / @RVMirandaINQ
/ 05:50 AM August 12, 2021

Former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes (PHOTO FROM PNP)

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — A fresh warrant of arrest has been issued against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes for allegedly ordering the killing of broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega a decade ago, the Inquirer learned on Wednesday.

Judge Angelo Arizala of Branch 52 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Palawan issued the warrant on July 14, nearly two years after the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed in December 2019 its own decision in January 2018 to dismiss the murder case against Reyes for lack of probable cause.

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The media learned about the new warrant on Wednesday from Reyes’ spokesperson Rolando Bonoan Jr., who said they were informed about the court order on Tuesday night.

Michaella Ortega, daughter of the slain veterinarian and broadcaster, welcomed the development in the case.

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She said that the family had been anticipating the resumption of the murder trial after several years of legal battles that they believe were meant to derail the murder case.

“There’s this kind of sense of desperation [on Reyes] where if he gets arrested again, we are going to pick up where we left off in the trial. A lot of witnesses have already said something, even Joel Reyes has already been at the stand. What’s interesting is that’s what we’re waiting for when the first decision of CA came out,” she said.

Motion to quash

Bonoan, a former provincial board member, said Reyes remains in the country and had no intentions to leave.

“Personally, I think the RTC should not have yet issued a warrant of arrest because the case is under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court because of the motion for reconsideration filed by the lawyers representing former Governor Reyes and it was already assigned by the Supreme Court in their division, so therefore, technically they already acquired jurisdiction over this,” Bonoan said.

Reyes’ lawyer had filed a motion to quash the arrest warrant before the RTC, arguing that their motion to overturn the CA’s December 2019 ruling in the Supreme Court was still pending. The CA had ordered the Palawan RTC to resume the trial of the case in which Reyes’ brother, Mario Reyes Jr., the mayor of Coron, was his coaccused.

“It always gave the Reyes brothers hope because they always have something to appeal about,” Ortega’s daughter said.

Bonoan insinuated that the arrest warrant may be motivated by politics, since Reyes could still run for any position despite being convicted of graft in a mining case in 2017.

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“Our question is, what is this warrant of arrest? Firstly, is it just because he’s just complying with the order of the Court of Appeals or is it because in just two months, the filing for candidacy for 2022 elections is about to begin?” Bonoan said.

Gunman caught

Ortega was shot multiple times in the head and body in January 2011 in a thrift shop near his veterinary clinic by a lone assailant in Puerto Princesa City.

The alleged gunman, Marlon Recamata, was caught with the help of bystanders. His alleged accomplices, Dennis Aranas and Armando Noel Loria, were arrested in the following days.

Recamata later confessed to the killing and said his group was hired for the hit job in exchange for P150,000 by Rodolfo Edrad Jr., a former Reyes bodyguard.

In February 2011, Ortega’s widow, Patria Gloria, filed a murder complaint against Reyes, his brother Mario and 10 others at the Department of Justice (DOJ), saying only Reyes had the motive to order her husband killed.

In his daily radio program, Ortega had criticized Reyes for the former governor’s inability to stop the abuses and violations of environmental laws committed by mining companies in Palawan.
Ortega’s widow also said Reyes blamed her husband for his failed run for Congress.

In March 2012, Reyes and his brother, fled to Vietnam to evade arrest after the DOJ indicted them for Ortega’s murder.

The Reyes brothers were arrested at Phuket, Thailand, in September 2015 and deported to Manila for violating Thai immigration laws. They were eventually detained at the Puerto Princesa City jail.

Graft conviction

In January 2016, the Supreme Court directed the Palawan RTC to proceed with the trial of Reyes for the murder of Ortega.

But in January 2018, the appellate court upheld his petition questioning the merit of his trial. However, Reyes remained in detention, this time for a graft conviction in a mining case in 2017. He was moved to a jail at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City in Metro Manila where he remained until his release in April this year.

In a decision authored by Associate Justice Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob in December 2019, the CA set aside its January 2018 ruling, reinstated the case and directed the Palawan RTC to issue a warrant of arrest against Reyes.

Several of Reyes’ associates in the Ortega murder case had already been convicted and are currently serving their respective sentences, including Regalado, a former aide and employee at the provincial capitol now serving time at the Iwahig Corrections Facility (ICF).

Reyes’ brother, the Coron mayor, is out on bail. —WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH

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TAGS: Former Palawan Governor, Gerry Ortega killing, Joel Reyes
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