Ex-Palawan gov Joel Reyes gets 6 to 8 years, lifetime gov’t ban for graft
Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes was convicted by the Sandiganbayan for graft and sentenced to six to eight years in prison for giving unwarranted benefit to a mining firm, which was granted small-scale mining permits despite exceeding the allowable extraction limit.
In a decision promulgated Aug. 29, the Sandiganbayan Third Division found Reyes guilty of graft in granting unwarranted benefit to Olympic Mines and Development Corp. (OMDC) in the renewal of a mining permit valid from April 6, 2006 to April 5, 2008.
This despite the mining firm’s previous permit that remains valid at the time up to Nov. 2006, and even though OMDC already mined and extracted the annual maximum 50,000 dry metric tons, allowing OMDC thus to overextract ore more than its allowable limit.
“Wherefore, accused Joel Reyes is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, and is sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of six years and one month, as minimum, to eight years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from public office,” the court said.
The court however acquitted the Palawan provincial government mining operations officer Adronico Baguyo for the prosecution’s failure to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The court said Reyes acted with gross inexcusable negligence when he renewed the mining permit despite the validity of the previous permit.
He also acted with negligence when he approved the permit “despite OMDC’s violations of the terms of said small scale mining permit.”
The court said the approval of the permit despite an existing one caused undue injury to the provincial government of Palawan.
The court belied Reyes’ defense that he only relied on the recommendations of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB).
“Accused Reyes cannot feign ignorance of the exhaustion of its privilege by OMDC…. As Governor of Palawan, his authority to approve small-scale mining permits calls for the dual role of allowing the exploration and exploitation of, and conserving and preserving the natural resources within the province’s territorial jurisdiction,” the court said.
“He chose to intentionally and willfully ignore his responsibilities and conveniently relied only on the recommendation of the PMRB,” the court added.
Reyes separately faces 36 counts of graft in connection with the alleged misuse of P1.53 billion Malampaya funds.
Reyes is currently detained at the Puerto Princesa city jail while facing trial for the murder of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.
READ: Reyes brothers in Ortega killing arrested in Thailand
Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, turned fugitive when they fled the country in March 2012 after they were indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly masterminding the murder of Ortega in 2011. The hitman named the Reyes brothers as the masterminds of the killing.
The brothers led a lavish lifestyle in Phuket, Thailand, before they were arrested by authorities on September 2015 for violation of immigration laws. They were deported to Manila, where they were detained at the Puerto Princesa city jail for murder.
The younger Reyes had been granted bail.
The elder Reyes was earlier charged with graft over the fertilizer fund scam for allegedly giving undue benefit to the bogus foundation Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation (Mamfi) in the procurement of 3,240 bottles of liquid fertilizers without public bidding in 2004.
Reyes allegedly favored Mamfi even though it was not eligible to implement the project. The said foundation also figured in the pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.
But the Sandiganbayan later dismissed this case due to the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay in investigating the charge. IDL
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