Sandiganbayan orders arrest of ex-Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes over graft
Published: 12:57 p.m., Jan. 29, 2018 | Updated: 12:50 a.m., Jan. 30, 2018
The Sandiganbayan has ordered the arrest of former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, canceling his bail and deeming him a flight risk because of his previous escape to Thailand after a lower court found probable cause to put him on trial for the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011.
The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division has also denied Reyes’ appeal of its Aug. 29 decision convicting him of graft and sentencing him to six to eight years’ imprisonment.
Reyes’ conviction arose from the irregular renewal of the permit of a mining company that exceeded ore extraction limits in 2006.
Hours after the two resolutions were made public on Monday, Reyes, dressed in black, appeared before the Sandiganbayan around 4 p.m. to surrender.
“We respect the decision of the court. That’s why we’re here,” Reyes told reporters.
But Demetrio Custodio, a lawyer for Reyes, said in a text message that the former governor would appeal the resolutions.
“We will file [a] motion for reconsideration of [the] order revoking bail. We will also bring his conviction to the [Supreme Court],” Custodio told the Inquirer in a text message.
The arrest order was made public 24 days after Reyes walked out of detention following the Court of Appeals’ Jan. 5 reversal of the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court’s finding of probable cause to put him on trial for the Jan. 24, 2011, murder of Ortega.
Reyes posted bail as early as August pending his appeal of his graft conviction. At the time, the antigraft court did not yet deem him a flight risk because of his detention.
The appeals court’s decision prompted Ombudsman prosecutors to ask the Sandiganbayan to revoke Reyes’ bail and have him arrested, citing the possibility that he could evade imprisonment.
In an 18-page resolution dated Jan. 17, the court agreed there was a “probability of flight if he were allowed to remain on provisional liberty given his record of having been a fugitive from justice.”
Under Section 5, Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court, defendants convicted of noncapital offenses could still
post bail—even pending an appeal to the Supreme Court—until the verdict has attained finality.
But, in Reyes’s case, the Sandiganbayan resolution said his bail had to be canceled on the grounds that “he… violated the conditions of his bail without valid justification” and “the circumstances of his case indicate the probability of flight if released on bail.”
This was because Reyes jumped bail and escaped to Thailand with his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, in March 2012 as they faced indictment for Ortega’s murder.
They were deported in September 2015 after Thai authorities arrested the Reyeses on the resort island of Phuket. –With a report from Julius Leonen /kga /pdi
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