Malacañang and the Ortega murder case

The release from detention of former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes last week sparked a national controversy, with no less than the palace weighting in with its condemnation of the action of the Court of Appeals.

Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque announced immediately following Reyes’ release it will undertake legal steps to bring back to jail the controversial former governor who had been indicted as the mastermind in the Gerry Ortega murder case.

Apart from the Gerry Ortega murder case, the former Palawan governor is on bail in connection with the decision had made favoring mining companies during his term in violation of existing mining laws. He is also still facing some 36 cases of graft in connection with the use by Palawan during his term of royalty funds from the Malampaya project.

Malacañang is determined to press the case against Reyes. This week, the solicitor general filed an urgent motion asking the Sandiganbayan to cancel his bail and put him back in jail, arguing he is a flight risk and could hide anew as he did in 2012.

Still, there are many, especially in the social media environment, who have remained cynical of Malacanang’s posturing on the Ortega murder case, despite what Harry Roque has said and done about the case.

Atty. Roque, to begin with, was the private counsel for the Ortega family before he was the spokesperson of Malacañang. That it has been mainly himself doing all the talking so far, with President Rodrigo Duterte not directly giving the marching orders, as he typically would when he felt strongly about an issue, leads some to doubt the administration’s sincerity.

The distrust stems from the patent inconsistency of the Duterte administration in pursuing the ends of justice to many other high profile cases similar to that of the Gerry Ortega murder – Kian delos Santos and even Leila de Lima to cite a couple of examples.

Not to belittle the public pronouncements of the solicitor general, who had also vowed to investigate what he described as the “stink” that attended the CA ruling favoring Reyes, many of those who clamor for justice to the fallen journalist want to see the result before they would grant an appreciate nod or perform a slow clap.

In the Palawan setting, the former governor’s release from jail was denounced by many but welcomed also by his political supporters. But most importantly it was a hurtful blow to the family of the victim and many who had kept faith in the justice system to litigate the case to its final conclusion. The CA ruling was a technicality that was too legally convoluted in its logic and meaning for an ordinary layman to understand.

It felt strange to hear Reyes making an appeal to his audience to accept the CA decision and “respect the rule of law”. For it was him who has demonstrated the hardiness to disrespect it when he evaded his accuser and left the country in the wake of his indictment, using a forged passport, instead of playing by the rules and asserting his case for innocence in court which is the proper forum.

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