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Senators hope arrest of Reyes brothers would allow justice for slain Dr. Ortega

Senators on Tuesday expressed hope that the arrest of brothers Joel and Mario Reyes would finally allow justice to be served over the killing of environmentalist Dr. Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega four years ago.

“The long arm of the law has finally caught up with them. The fight has been lengthy and hard for Doc Gerry’s family,” Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said in a press statement.
“It’s about time that justice is served and the regime of impunity is ended,” he added.
Guingona said the arrest of the two is a testament that despite years of waiting and seeming hopelessness, a major development in the case has come to light.

The Reyes brothers were nabbed in Phuket, Thailand Sunday. The two slipped out of the country in March 2012, a few days before arrest warrants were issued against them. They reportedly flew to Vietnam, with Joel supposedly using a fake passport under the name "Joseph Lim Pe.”
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said the Reyes brothers will be brought back to the country on Thursday.

PHL-Thailand treaty
Meanwhile in an inteview with reporters, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the immediate arrest of the Reyes brothers will speed up the resolution of the Ortega case and provide justice to the victim’s family.

At the same time, Drilon said the country can immediately request the Thailand government to extradite the two based on a 1981 Treaty between the Philippines and Thailand.
“There is an extradition treaty in force between the Philippines and Thailand which was ratified in 1981. The Philippine can seek the extradition of the Reyes brothers on the basis of this Treaty in order to facilitate the immediate resolution of the Ortega case,” he said.
Drilon said the treaty aims “to make more effective the cooperation of the two countries in the repression of crime and, specifically, to regulate and thereby promote the relations between them in matters of extradition.”
He added the treaty clearly specifies that the two countries “agree to extradite to each other, in the circumstance and subject to the conditions described in this Treaty, persons found in its territory who are being proceeded against or who have been charged with, found guilty or convicted of, any of the crimes” covered under the Treaty.
Among the crimes specified under the Treaty include the killing or causing death to another person, abduction, kidnapping, corruption, and crimes against the laws relating to narcotics, firearms, and explosives, Drilon said.
Aside from the 1981 Treaty, the Senate in 2008 ratified a resolution concurring in the ratification of the ASEAN Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.

Malampaya probe
Meanwhile, Guingona believed the arrest would also shed light on the alleged misuse of P3.9-billion from the Malampaya gas project.
The investigations of the Blue Ribbon committee, which the senator heads, conducted two years ago linked the murder of Dr. Ortega to the controversy-laden Malampaya funds.
Guingona said that through the testimonies of several people and nongovernment organizations, "it is clear that Gerry Ortega was hitting hard on the corruption of Malampaya funds" before he was killed.
Blue Ribbon investigations showed that 19 road improvement and two bridge construction projects in Palawan province worth P420-million were grossly overpriced and failed to conform to government standards. 
Ortega, also a noted environmentalist in Palawan, was gunned down in 2011. Joel is a former Palawan governor while Mario once served as mayor of Coron. — Amita Legaspi/RSJ, GMA News