Get suspects, Ortega backers urge De Lima
More than 30,000 supporters of murdered Palawan journalist Gerry Ortega have asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to push for the prosecution of former Gov. Mario Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, who have been accused of masterminding the crime.
Ortega’s family and several supporters, including running priest Fr. Robert Reyes (not related to the Reyes brothers), trooped to the Department of Justice in Manila last Friday to submit their petition to De Lima.
The number of signatories to the petition was twice the number Father Reyes had promised to collect to urge De Lima to bring to justice those responsible for the killing of Ortega, who was gunned down on Jan. 24, 2011.
The Reyes brothers were reported by immigration authorities to have left the country for Vietnam shortly after the filing of murder charges against them in the DOJ.
Prior to his death, Ortega was a vocal critic of local officials for their alleged misuse of funds derived from the operation of the Malampaya gas field in Palawan.
In a statement, Patty Ortega, widow of the victim, said a pending petition for review—which seeks the reversal of the resolution issued by the first panel of prosecutors in 2011 which junked the murder charges against the Reyes brothers—has yet to be acted on by De Lima.
“We know that in the next few days Secretary De Lima will be resigning to prepare for her candidacy for senator. We want to ask her before she leaves office to resolve our petition for review,” the statement said.
Ortega said her family remained hopeful De Lima would keep her promise to be fair in resolving the case despite the ex-governor being her client when she was an election lawyer.
The Court of Appeals issued a ruling in October 2014 directing De Lima to resolve the petition for review filed by the Ortega family. The court had junked the petition filed by the former Palawan governor seeking to prohibit the DOJ from further conducting in a preliminary investigation in connection with the case.
The ex-governor sought De Lima’s inhibition from the petition for review following her statement that his camp had employed “foul tactics and illicit means” to get a favorable decision from the appellate court.
He also cited De Lima’s statement that her office “is readying a contingency plan-resolution” of the pending petition for review of the Ortega family following the Court of Appeals’ ruling that nullified the creation of a second panel of prosecutors and its subsequent finding of probable cause to hold the ex-governor liable for murder.
In October 2013, the Court of Appeals declared final its March 19, 2013, decision that cleared the former governor of murder charges in connection with the killing of Ortega. The court reinstated an earlier resolution issued by the first panel of prosecutors of the DOJ that cleared the Reyes brothers and four others of the murder charges for insufficiency of evidence.
Mayor Reyes was also cleared by another division of the CA. He had challenged De Lima’s order that created a second panel of investigators that reversed the findings of the first panel.
In the case of the ex-governor, the appeals court had ruled that instead of creating a second panel of investigators, De Lima should have reviewed the case herself.
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