CA ruling should not deter Ortega’s quest for justice


It seems everyone, but his closest associates, was caught  flat- footed with the sudden release from jail of former Governor Joel T. Reyes. For a long time, the public has accepted his fate as the alleged mastermind in the murder of former Board member and broadcaster Gerry Ortega. Even the worst of his perceived enemies had become  complacent, expecting the former Governor  to languish in jail till kingdom come. No much was heard about him. He was, in fact, existing below radar  and  bound to be forgotten. And as the trial of  the murder case grinds exceedingly slow, interest in Gerry’s fate has also waned considerably. Even some of the more  rabid supporters of the Ortega  family have become scarce. Secretary Harry Roque, who was prominent during the early stages of the case, has gone to better and more prominent pasture. Now we do not even know who’s handling the case. It’s a pity that what  started as a bang, seemed to have languished in a whimper.

With JTR’s release, expect the political rumor mill to work overtime in creating several scenarios for his return to the political arena. His former associates will certainly spring back to life, and start  dreaming of the day when  they are  in the saddle once more. And those in power now will have to reconfigure their political stance with the former Governor in  mind.

But  the bigger question is whether  JTR  is still into it. The man had gone through a most painful  grinder, certainly  prison life was no walk in the park for him,  and there are  stark realities of painful betrayals and disloyalties. Also, there is still his pending case at the Sandigan which found him guilty of graft over the alleged anomalous renewal of permit  of a small scale mining company.  And although his name is now commonly  associated with politics, perhaps, he has a different perspective  of it  by now, tempered by what he had gone through.

But for now, those outside the political fence will have something to hope or wish for.

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The  Ortega family and their supporters  could not waver in the fight  for what Gerry stood for, notwithstanding the setback at the Court  of Appeals.  They owe it to his memory and to the public to continue the quest for justice, to fight and triumph against what seemed like an insurmountable odds.  I am certain once they have recovered from the shock, and after picking up the pieces, they will be emboldened even more to move forward knowing that there  is light  at the end of the tunnel.

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The “miracle” which is supposed to have saved Reyes from facing trial, as stated in the majority decision of the CA, is not really so, and neither is it a “lucky three-point play” . Rather, it was the “premature” conclusion of a special division of the CA which saved him, so says Justice Maria Filimena Singh, who wrote a separate dissenting opinion and who joined Justice Marie Christine Jacob in opposing the majority.

Justice Singh’s 18 page dissent raised several legal points which i’m certain Ortega’s legal team have studied by now. Meanwhile, we could only wait for the moves of both parties in their own respective quest for justice.

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With the stench of a decadent war and  natural calamities and accidents occurring at  alarming intervals, 2017  was indeed the year when we lived  our lives  dangerously. But faith, fortitude and resilience made the Filipinos survive and even emerge as the number three  happiest people on earth. What a race!

2018, however, promises to be more interesting with several disruptions looming in the horizon which would recast the very foundation of our country.

Top on the list is the imminent shift  from a highly  centralized unitary government to the shared and dispersed power of federalism. With Speaker Alvarez himself leading the charge, Congress is all set to convene as a constituent assembly to write the law that will be submitted in a plebiscite to the electorate in time for the barangay elections in May this year. But as far as the Duterte partisans are concerned, it is a done deal   particularly for  the once  minuscule PDP-Laban and its die hards, who through the years,had a  fought a lonely battle for the cause of Federalism.

It would be instructive to see how the Constituent Assembly will hammer the Transitory Provisions of the amended  Constitution which will contain the structure, essence and nuances of a transition government. Of significant  interest is the likelihood of  canceling the  scheduled elections in 2019 as part of the transitioning mechanism of the present government. NO EL is seen by House leaders as a ” necessary evil ” which we have to embrace.

Just a word of caution: democracy abhors  NO  EL  scenarios,  and unless our leaders come to grips  with this  reality, people’s patience maybe stretched too far beyond our leaders capacity to manage.  What was prescribed as a cure could become the dreaded disease of which there is no panacea.

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