We can only commiserate with the family of the late Palawan broadcaster and environmental advocate Dr. Gerry Ortega, in their quest for justice following the death of “Doc. Gerry” in the hands of still-unknown killers.
The Court of Appeals ( CA) last January 4 granted the petition of former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, a suspect in the 2011 murder of Ortega, questioning the proceedings at the Regional Trial Court ( RTC) of Puerto Princesa.
The CA ordered the “immediate release” of Reyes from detention and the dismissal of the murder charge against him before the RTC.
The CA granted Reyes’ petition and held that the evidence presented by prosecutors was “not competent” to establish reasonable grounds that he participated in the killing of Ortega.
The appellate court blamed he RTC for relying on the testimony of Rodolfo Edrad Jr., the former governor’s security escort who had admitted hiring the gunman, Marlon Recamata, to kill Ortega allegedly upon Reyes’ order.
The former 11th division of the CA composed of five justices voted 3-2 to acquit Reyes.
CA Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro penned the ruling with Associate Justices Danton Bueser and Victoria Paredes concurring, while Associate Justices Maria Filemona Singh and Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob dissented.
In the CA ruling, Pizarro said: “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.”
According to media reports, Justice Pizarro was also the justice who penned the ruling which acquitted Janet Lim Napoles in the serious illegal detention case filed against her by pork-barrel scam whistleblower, Benhur Luy.
He also wrote the ruling that nullified a Hawaii court decision that granted $2 billion worth of damages to victims of Martial Law during the term of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
We agree with Solicitor General Jose Calida who said that that CA decision, “stinks.”
The Solicitor General said aid that his office will ask the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse the CA decision.
“As the People’s Tribune, I cannot sustain the Court of Appeals as they are clearly in the wrong,” Calida said.
“We are ready and raring to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be no miscarriage of justice under my watch,” he added.
Malacanang has also slammed the CA decision and vowed to work with the OSG to overturn the ruling.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, who used to lawyer for Ortega’s family in their case against Reyes, said that the palace will exercise all legal options to reverse this decision by the CA.
He explained that seeking the CA ruling’s reversal is the official position of the Duterte government.
At least, this a good sign for the Ortega family in their 7-year quest for justice.
A few years ago, we personally met Mika Ortega, daughter of the slain environmental champion.
We remember her saying: “Palawan is rich, but why do many remain poor?”
Those were wise words which vividly described the irony that is Palawan.
Mika’s words are not hard to understand – the province is exceptionally rich in natural resources but many Palawenos appear to be untouched by the benefits of its bounty.
Mika’s question is probably this – where do the fruits of Palawan’s wealth go? Who actually benefit from them? If not the ordinary people of Palawan, then who?
After Mika asked this question, the word “Malampaya” cropped up.
This is expected. The natural gas project in that part of the sea off Palawan’s shore fetches billions of pesos. The province of Palawan is supposed to be a top beneficiary of the earnings from that project.
Mika must be wondering, too, why that treasure off her province’s shores have not brought much progress there.
Mika is not the only person baffled by the ironic situation.
Her father, “Doc. Gerry” it seems, was puzzled, too.
We recall that Mika’s mother, Dr. Patria Gloria Inocencio-Ortega, in her complaint affidavit alleged that the former governor masterminded the killing of her husband because of his strong anti-corruption campaign against Reyes specifically in handling the Malampaya proceeds.
She also claimed that because of her husband’s criticisms, Reyes lost in his bid to be representative of the second district of Palawan.
Could this be the real reasons why “Doc Gerry” was shot dead in Puerto Princesa City, inside an “ukay-ukay” store on Jan. 24, 2011?
You’re guess is as good as mine.
Meantime, we hope justice prevails in this case.