Joel Reyes’ bid for bail rejected
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—A court here junked a petition by former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, accused as mastermind of the murder of broadcast journalist and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega, to be freed on bail.
Judge Angelo Arizala, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 52, denied Reyes’ petition for bail although the same was granted in May to the former governor’s brother, Mario, former mayor of Coron, a resort town in Palawan.
The prosecution said the ruling affirmed the strength of evidence against Reyes, who continued to deny a role in Ortega’s murder.
“This brings us closer to convicting the first ever principal for the killing of a journalist,” said lawyer Harry Roque, the lead prosecution lawyer and now party-list representative.
Reyes, who is detained at the city jail, had gone into hiding shortly after Ortega, who is also an antigraft crusader in the province, was shot dead in broad daylight in the city market. Reyes and brother Mario were later arrested by authorities in a resort in Thailand, where they had fled.
The Ortega family issued a statement welcoming Arizala’s decision and expressing hope for a conviction of the Reyes brothers.
“Five years and six months after Doc Gerry’s murder, we are finally proceeding to the murder trial of the mastermind,” the family statement said.
“We will remain vigilant in the later stages of the trial. Our family continues to hope that truth and justice will prevail,” said the victim’s eldest daughter, Michaela Ortega. The court has scheduled the next hearing for the continuation of the trial on Oct. 11, with the defense presenting its evidence on behalf of the Reyeses.
Two men had already been convicted by the court in connection with the murder—Marlon Recamata, the gunman allegedly hired by the Reyes brothers, and Arturo Regalado, former aide of Reyes who was found to have helped Recamata and the team that executed the assassination contract on Ortega.
Reyes was implicated by a former security aide, Rodolfo Edrad Jr., who surrendered to authorities and testified against his former employer as a state witness.
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