Palace: Gov't to exert all legal options to reverse CA decision on Ortega case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 8) — The Palace vowed on Monday to reverse the Court of Appeals' (CA) ruling on the trial of a former Palawan governor charged for the murder of  journalist-activist Gerry Ortega.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque slammed the decision to stop the trial, which the CA said was unnecessary, and a waste of government funds, citing lack of evidence.

"We will exercise all legal options to reverse this decision of the Court of Appeals," Roque said in a press conference.

In its 24-page ruling on January 4, the Court of Appeals said Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court  (RTC) abused its discretion when it decided there was probable cause to charge Reyes for the murder of Ortega in 2011.

He further said the Office of the Solicitor General will study legal options.

Roque, who also served as legal counsel in the case against Reyes, said he was given permission to comment on the case in his personal capacity as a former prosecutor.

"So I have expressed consent to comment and my comment is-it is not true that the case was a 'miracle.' The case, true, is a 'kababalaghan'... but is really a travesty of justice," he added.

The court called its order to release Reyes a "miracle in his favor."

Roque added a possible legal option is to file for a motion of reconsideration at the Supreme Court.

Related: Ex-Palawan governor in Gerry Ortega slay walks free

Speaking as a former prosecutor, he disputed the supposed lack of evidence. He said he gathered testimonies on a supposed hit squad and the payment for the killing of Ortega.

Roque recalled a Supreme Court ruling in 2016 allowed the RTC to proceed in the trial against Reyes. He questioned the authority of the CA to counter that decision.

"The Supreme Court has already said it is the RTC that must now determine whether or not it should be dismissed on the basis of probably cause. The RTC had made that decision. The evidence of guilt is strong," said Roque.

"How can the Court of Appeals [now] overrule the Supreme Court on this?" he added.

Roque also said the decision was a "major setback" to the fight against criminality. He also noted Reyes was convicted for graft amid a mining permit, as well as tagged in the P1.53 billion Malampaya fund scam.

"We do not want suspected murderers to walk away scot-free, considering in this case he has also been convicted twice for violating the anti-graft and corrupt practices law...He's a nefarious and bad character," he said.

 

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

Ortega is just one of many journalist slays in the Philippines, which remains one of the deadliest countries for media persons.

Related: PH deadliest country in Asia for journalists - report