Aguirre: OSG to decide whether to appeal case vs ex-Palawan gov
The government’s prosecutorial arm is in a quandary on the legal implications of the dismissal of case against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes for the 2011 murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerardo Ortega despite Malacañang’s pronouncement that it will appeal the case.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II could not provide a definite response on the government’s next step following the Court of Appeals’ decision clearing Reyes.
“The filing of an appeal depends on the CA ruling – if it will constitute double jeopardy,” Aguirre said Monday in a text message to reporters.
According to him, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) handles appeals on criminal cases and it will be up to the OSG to determine if an appeal can still be filed or not.
In a decision issued last Jan. 4, the appeals court ordered Reyes’s release, saying there was no basis for the Puerto Princesa court to indict him for Ortega’s death.
In clearing Reyes, the appeals court cited lack of evidence.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro, the same justice who penned the 2017 ruling clearing Janet Lim Napoles of serious illegal detention as well as the decision dismissing the compensation claim of human rights victims during the Marcos regime.
Associate Justices Maria Filomena Singh and Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob dissented from the ruling of the appeals court’s special division.
Singh said there was no proof that the lower court gravely abused its discretion in ordering Reyes’s arrest.
In fact, she said: “The evidence submitted to the RTC in support of the charge tells a clear story – that the petitioner [Reyes], as former governor of Palawan, prima facie ordered the killing of Dr. Ortega.”
“There is nothing remotely resembling abuse of discretion, much less grave, on the part of the RTC in issuing the assailed orders,” Singh said. “The findings of the RTC are supported by the evidence on record, as afore-demonstrated. The RTC merely acted in accordance with the duty imposed upon it by the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.”
On the other hand, Jacob said the proper cause of action would be not to dismiss the case but to proceed to trial.
“The Court, at this particular stage of the proceedings can not arrogate upon itself the task of dwelling on the factual and evidentiary matters,” Jacob said.
Ortega was killed in Palawan on Jan. 24, 2011. The police arrested the gun for hire fleeing the scene and the murder weapon was traced to a lawyer of Reyes. /atm