Breaktime

Tender loving scare

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“Scary!!”

The word, including the two stunning exclamation points, is a direct quote from the recent ruling of the Court of Appeals on the much-publicized case involving former Palawan Governor Joel T. Reyes and his brother, the incumbent mayor of Coron (Palawan), Mario Reyes Jr.

According to earlier banner headline reports, the Department of Justice charged the Reyes brothers for the two-year-old murder of a block-time radio commentator in Palawan named Gerry Ortega.

The screaming headlines also proclaimed the Reyes brothers as fugitive from justice, since they reportedly went into hiding, fleeing the country even, when the RTC in Palawan issued a warrant for their arrest.

In a decision penned by the acting chair of the CA Special Fifth Division, Associate Justice Leoncia Real-Dimagiba, the court voided the murder charges filed by the DOJ, ruling that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had committed grave abuse of discretion.

Thus, the CA in effect cancelled the arrest warrant against the Reyes brothers. What do you think—will the Reyes brothers now return to the country and, possibly, even actively take part in the interesting local politics in Palawan, following the CA ruling?

I can only say that, perhaps, some political bigwigs in Palawan must be fuming mad with this new development in the case of the Reyes brothers, particularly Joel Reyes, the former governor, during whose term Palawan received from the national government billions of pesos in its share from the government royalty in the Malampaya gas fields.

From what I heard, the case between the Palawan local government and the national government involving the sharing of the royalty would soon be resolved. In other words, the Palawan provincial government can now expect a bonanza worth billions upon billions of pesos.

Anyway, the CA noted that De Lima, as DOJ secretary, must follow the procedures set by her own department. “Otherwise the vast power of the Secretary of Justice would be susceptible to abuse.” And the CA decision added: “Scary!!”

Actually, without mincing words of tender loving care for De Lima, the CA ruled that she had committed grave abuse of discretion when she created a “second” panel of investigators in connection with the Ortega murder case.

As we all know, the “first” panel created by De Lima to conduct preliminary investigation of the murder case—actually—cleared the Reyes brothers.

The two were implicated in the case by the gunman that—by some lucky twist of pure coincidence—was caught right after the shooting of Ortega in Puerto Princesa City. He was apprehended by policemen from another town who happened to be in the city to withdraw money from an ATM machine near the murder scene.

The “first” De Lima panel, as I said, threw out the confession of the gunman who pointed to the former governor, Joel Reyes, as the mastermind of the murder.

Subsequently, amid much print and broadcast media coverage, the Ortega widow asked De Lima for a review of the decision of the “first” panel, saying that she discovered some new evidence to corroborate the confession of the gunman.

The CA noted that De Lima did not decide on the request of the Ortega widow for a review of the findings of the “first” panel. Instead, the CA noted, she created a “second” panel. The CA then faulted De Lima for her action, tantamount to abuse of discretion.

To top it all, as indicated in the CA ruling, in her order creating the “second” panel (known as Department Order 710), De Lima did not cite any compelling reason for the creation of the “second” panel of prosecutors.

In short, basta!

The CA thus voided the decision of the “second” panel to charge the Reyes brothers, plus two other individuals, with the murder of the radio commentator, saying that the “second” panel itself also committed “grave abuse of discretion, amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

Actually, as a background, when De Lima created the “second” panel, the lawyer of the Reyes brothers, named Demetrio Custodio Jr., wrote her to clarify its authority.

De Lima replied that the “second” panel was not meant to set aside the decision of the “first” panel that cleared the Reyes brothers of the murder complaint. The task of the “second” panel, according to De Lima, was only to look into the supposedly “additional” evidence presented by the Ortega widow.

All of a sudden, even before De Lima could make a decision on the request of the Ortega widow to review the findings of the “first” panel, which, as I said, cleared the Reyes brothers, the “second” panel overturned the very same findings.

In other words, as the CA noted, there were already two separate proceedings on the same case, namely, the appeal of the Ortega widow for a review, and the brand-new re-investigation being conducted by the “second” panel.

The decision of the “second” panel then created a chain of events, leading to the issuance by the Palawan RTC of the arrest warrant against the brothers. Screaming headlines subsequently labeled the brothers as fugitives from justice.

The CA ruled that the “second” panel actually erred in its findings, because it relied on the written confession of the gunman and his accomplices that implicated the Reyes brothers.

The CA even noted “conflicts” in the details of their written confessions, while the CA said there were even no new evidence presented to the “second” panel, except some documents stating that there were text messages sent by the alleged gunman to the former governor of Palawan, Joel Reyes, who even questioned whether the supposed new evidence was admissible in the case.

Now, the contents of the supposed text messages were never shown. Really, just how easy is it to text anybody in the whole wide world? Every day we receive all sorts of hard-sell texts from credit cards, loan sharks and even scam artists from Nigeria.

Anyway, such a question on their admissibility should have been the coverage of the “review” of the decision of the “first” panel, which De Lima should have done, instead of creating a “second” panel.

The case here is not just an ordinary jaywalking case or something. As the CA noted, it involved a capital offense: murder. In fact, it was supposedly a big-time conspiracy.

The CA ruled: “Conspiracy cannot be taken lightly; it must be established by positive and convincing evidence. Further, for two or more extra-judicial confessions to be admitted as circumstantial evidence to show the probability of participation of the persons implicated, the same must be identical in their essential details and must be corroborated by other evidence on record.”

In other words, the “second” panel was wrong.

Preliminary investigation, according to the CA, should work two ways: one, to establish sufficient ground for somebody to be put on trial and, two, to protect the innocent against what the associate justices called “hasty malicious and oppressive persecution.”

It is to do justice—less to prosecute.

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  • conradoibarra

    So what’s the point in creating panels when De Lima won’t consider their findings. It seems that the DoJ has already made a verdict on this case and it just wants it to be reinforced by panels upon panels upon panels, when instead it should look at the evidence and the facts of the case with an open mind and conclude on who the criminals really are.

    As with all cases, the burden of proof lies with the accused, that they are innocent until proven guilty, and in this case, the CA has found that there is no proof to support that guilt of the accused, the DoJ should take that at face value and investigate other possible suspects. How then can the DoJ maintain its credibility when it acts on its own regardless of the rule of law? Who then can the people turn to for true justice?

  • EdgarEdgar

    COA was right to place the blame squarely on DOJ Leila de Lima for mishandling the preparation of the case. Leila de Lima screwed up big time. She screwed up so bad that even the Court of Appeals could not refrain from commenting on her grave abuse of discretion. She took short cuts which undermined the integrity of due process and therefore had to be rebuffed by the COA. To put it politely, Leila de Lima is just too sloppy. So sloppy that she ended up delaying and denying the Ortegas the justice they so deserve. Leila de Lima is sloppiness, incompetence and negligence all rolled into one. Her inadequacies are only matched by her equally inept president, at whose pleasure she serves. With pigs like Leila de Lima sitting and soiling positions of national importance, this country is bound to go to the dogs if not the pig sty. Nothing could be scarier than sloppy.

  • Philip Vera Cruz

    Leila said she created the second panel because as DOJ Secretary, she just exercised her plenary authority as there could be a miscarriage of justice in this case…now thats really scary! And now she has instructed the Solicitor General to prepare a motion for reconsideration. And what would she tell us if this motion will be thrown out by the court? That she had to do that because she felt there was going to be a miscarriage of justice again? Why cant just Leila create a third panel to investigate the other personalities who many think are connected to the murder of  Jerry Ortega? Leila should start doing thins right and not act on whim. Get the real killers Justice Secretary!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/katrina.magno.33 Katrina Magno

    Scary indeedy – how these corrupt and incompetent officials are sitting in offices of national importance and abusing their power just because they can. Kudos for Leila de Lima for muddling up this politically laden case even more and screwing up the Ortega’s quest for justice. The Secretary’s indiscretion also begs the question of why is she in connivance with the gangster Mayor and the Illegal logger – 2 prominent politicians who stands to gain a lot with the elimination of the Reyes brothers in the political landscape of Palawan. Perhaps for multi-million reasons – mamai nyan si Mayor at si Alvarez eh.

  • Jerry De Jesus

    “The CA even noted “conflicts” in the details of their written confessions, while the CA said there were even no new evidence presented to the “second” panel,… ” – what more could we say. The RTC judge of Puerto Princesa must now lift the warrant of arrest against the Reyeses. 

  • http://twitter.com/marygracete marygarcete

    Scary indeed!!

    Hard to imagine that De Lima broke rules set by her own department
    but hey, with the right price anything’s possible.  It’s even scarier to think that even the rich
    can be prosecuted without due process.  The Court of Appeals did well by nullifying the panel De Lima created,
    clearly the justice secretary broke all rules of court and the CA stepped just
    right in time to show that justice can still prevail in this country.    

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