Palace lauds Joel Reyes’ surrender to Sandiganbayan
Malacañang on Tuesday hailed the surrender of former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes after the Sandiganbayan ordered his arrest for a graft case.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Reyes’s surrender was a good development “in case” the Court of Appeals reverses its controversial decision clearing him in the murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega.
“It’s a relief that the Sandiganbayan ordered his arrest as he has proven himself to be a flight risk,” Roque said in a text message.
“It’s also good that he surrendered in case (Court of Appeals) acts in favor of OSG’s (Office of the Solicitor General’s) motion for reconsideration to overturn the order that led to his freedom in the murder case,” he added.
Reyes surrendered to the Sandiganbayan on Monday after the anti-graft court reaffirmed its 2017 order sending him to prison for approving the permit of a small-scale mining firm.
The Court of Appeals on January 4 ruled that the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court abused its discretion when it decided that there was probable cause to charge Reyes of involvement in the killing of Ortega on Jan. 24, 2011.
“Call it a second chance afforded him by God or a lucky three-point play for him, to use a common street lingo, or a miracle in his favor, (Reyes) must by all means be exonerated from the charge,” the appellate court said.
However, Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the appellate court to reconsider its decision, saying that it imposed its own standard of probable cause different from what was required by law and not warranted by the circumstances of the case.
“The admissibility of evidence, their evidentiary weight, probative value, and the credibility of witnesses are matters that are best left to be resolved in a full-blown trial,” Calida said.
Ortega was gunned down by a hired gunman in January 2011 and Reyes was later pinpointed as the mastermind.
The investigation led to the indictment of Reyes, his younger brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes and several people formerly connected with the provincial government of Palawan.
Reyes was initially absolved by a Department of Justice panel of investigators but then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima rejected the decision and formed a second panel, which found prima facie evidence to indict him.
In 2012, Reyes went into hiding before the issuance of an arrest warrant by the regional trial court.
Reyes questioned before the CA the validity of the creation of a second panel and asked the appeals court to dismiss the case on that basis.
The case went on trial while Reyes was in hiding for three years. The Reyes brothers were eventually arrested in Thailand and brought back to the country to face trial in 2015.
Mario Reyes, however, was allowed to post bail in 2016 while the governor was released earlier this month after the Court of Appeals handed down its decision. /je
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