'Reyes brothers still wanted for murder'

MANILA, Philippines - The murder case against former Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, still stands even if the Court of Appeals has nullified the investigating panel that filed charges against them, the widow of slain Palawan broadcaster Gerry Ortega said on Thursday, November 29.

Patria Gloria Ortega said the Reyes brothers - both of whom face murder for the killing of her husband in January 2011 - were not exonerated by the recent CA ruling that invalidated the panel tasked by the Department of Justice to probe the case.

"The simple facts are the murder case is still pending in Palawan, the arrest warrant is in effect and there is still reward of P2 million each for the fugitive Reyes brothers," she said.

The CA 5th division through Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba nullified on November 27 the second panel that found probable cause against the Reyes brothers, saying Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should have tasked the original panel to reinvestigate the case instead of forming another body. 

The first investigating panel found no probable cause against the Reyes brothers in June 2011 due to insuffficient evidence. The second panel reversed the said findings in March 2012 however, and filed charges against the two before the regional trial court in Puerto Prinsesa City.

Acquitted?

Ortega slammed initial news headlines that said the Reyes brothers have been acquitted. "It is now quite apparent that this was conscious disinformation from Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, legal counsel of the hiding Reyeses," she said.

Topacio denied this. "I did no such thing," he told Rappler. 

Alex Avisado Jr., lawyer of the Ortega family, said nowhere in the ruling did the court say the murder case against the Reyes brothers was dismissed. It also did not recall the arrest warrant issued against the two on March 27, Avisado added.

The Reyes brothers have fled to Vietnem on March 18, days before the arrest warrant was issued. 

Special body

Ortega appealed to the government to form a special body that will hunt down the Reyes brothers, but commended De Lima for saying the DOJ will question the court ruling.

Avisado said they will also file a motion for reconsideration.

Ortega said the Reyeses should come out and face trial.

"It's a desperate move [disinformation]. Topacio always says we shouldn't have trial by publicity. But they are the ones who have been prolonging the case. Let your clients surface and go to the court," she said. 

Puerto Prinsesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn said that the Reyes brothers should be brought to justice to discourage the "culture of impunity."

"It's sad if this is our justice system, more journalists will die," he said. 

The Reyes brothers have been accused of ordering the murder of Ortega in 2011. The Palawan broadcaster had criticized the former governer over the alleged misuse of funds generated from the Malampaya gas field in Palawan. - Rappler.com