Ortega family breaks silence on JTR release

Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes at the city airport after his release from jail.

The family of slain Palawan broadcast journalist broke its silence Saturday over the release order by the Court of Appeals on Friday, January 5, of erstwhile mastermind suspect and former Governor Joel T. Reyes.

“Our family is still recovering from the shock of yesterday’s (January 5) CA decision ordering the release of former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, the mastermind for the murder of radio broadcaster, environmentalist, and anti-corruption advocate Dr. Gerry Ortega,” the statement, released by Ortega’s eldest daughter Michaella, stated.

“This decision comes a few weeks before the 7th year anniversary of Doc Gerry’s murder fighting for justice and press freedom.  We have not received the copy of the decision yet. We will need time with our lawyers to study it and plan our next move,” it added.

Supporters and friends of the Ortega family poured sentiments on social media, even as Reyes’ own supported hailed the CA “release order” in favor of Reyes who had been detained at the City jail since his arrest in Thailand in 2016.

“Our justice system is like a snake which bites only the barefooted, the poor, not the rich and the powerful. But surely there is Divine Justice,” former Palawan bishop Pedro Arigo said in a Facebook post.

“Sana magkaisa na ang mga Palawenyo at ipagtanggol ang lahing Palawenyo. Welcome back JTR,” former board member Art Ventura stated in a separate FB thread.

“I’m not in any way pre-judging JTR (Joet T. Reyes) that he is guilty. It is for the court to judge. But for the CA to decide and overrule the RTC proceedings is a bleak day for our justice system,” Rafael Ortega, Jr., brother of Gerry Ortega, also said in a Facebook post.

The Court of Appeals on January 4 ordered the Regional Trial Court to stop its ongoing trial on the case.

“The information in Crim. Case 26839 insofar as Mario T. Reyes is concerned is dismissed and the RTC, Fourth Judicial Region, Br. 52, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, is prohibited/barred from further proceeding with the case,” the CA order stated.

The order was served late afternoon of the same day. Also on the evening of his release, Reyes took a commercial flight to Manila from Puerto Princesa City.

Reyes’ lawyers had claimed that the DOJ erred in dismissing the ruling of the first panel that evaluated the evidence against Reyes and dismissed the complaint filed against the former governor by the Ortega family.

The CA’s order or release came even as the Supreme Court, in a ruling issued on January 11, 2016 and penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, dismissed Reyes’ petition questioning the validity of the RTC trial.

“Since the trial court has already acquired jurisdiction over the case and the existence of probable cause has been judicially determined, a petition for certiorari questioning the conduct of the preliminary investigation ceases to be the “plain, speedy, and adequate remedy” provided by law. Since this Petition for Review is an appeal from .a moot Petition for Certiorari, it must also be rendered moot,” the SC ruling stated.

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