Ex-Palawan governor in Gerry Ortega slay walks free

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 6) — Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes walked free Friday after the Court of Appeals ruled there is no basis to hold him for trial over the murder of broadcast journalist and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.

In its 24-page ruling on January 4, the Court of Appeals ordered the Regional Trial Court of Princesa City, Palawan, to stop the trial for lack of evidence.

"The utter uselessness of proceeding further with the case, considering the wanton lack of evidence, is very clear and apparent," the court said. "No evidence, no conviction."

It said it was useless to proceed with the case as government resources will be "unduly wasted."

"He is definitely saved from the 20-year or so imprisonment," the court added.

The court ruled on the appeal to reverse the RTC's issuance of a warant of arrest and basis for probable cause.

The court further ordered the "immediate release" of Reyes from detention.

The police complied with the court's order and released Reyes on Friday, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said.

Reyes thanked his supporters.

"Salamat na lang sa mga panalangin ng mga Palaweno... Magsisimba muna ako, magpapasalamat (Thank you to all Palaweños who prayed for me. I will go to church first to give thanks)."

Reyes was accused of masterminding the murder of Ortega, slain in broad daylight in 2011. He had reported on the alleged widespread corruption in the provincial government and misuse of funds in Palawan, which later became part of the Malampaya fund scam.

Together with his brother Mario, Reyes went into hiding in 2012 but was arrested in Phuket, Thailand in 2015. Mario, also accused of murder, was allowed to post bail when he ran for vice mayor in 2016.

TIMELINE: Gerry Ortega slay case

Meanwhile, Ortega's wife Patty said the family is saddened by the court's latest decision. She said they are consulting their lawyers on how to proceed with the case.