The Court of Appeals has reinstated murder charges against former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes in connection with the killing of environmentalist Gerry Ortega in 2011.
The CA ruling, dated November 28 but was only released on Friday, December 20, also ordered the arrest of Reyes —a reversal of the CA’s Former Eleventh Division's January 2018 decision which junked murder charges against Ortega for lack of probable cause and ordered his release.
In its latest ruling, the CA said at this stage of the criminal proceeding, the Appellate Court is not yet tasked to review in detail the evidence submitted during the preliminary investigation since it is already sufficient that the Appellate Court judge personally evaluates the evidence in determining probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest.
“In reviewing the finding of probable cause made by the RTC (Regional Trial Court), this Court has a duty to do the same, that is, to determine the probability, not the certainty, of guilt of the petitioner based on evidence available in the records. The Court must bear in mind that a finding of probable cause to order the arrest of petitioner does not require an inquiry into whether there is sufficient evidence to procure a conviction,” the CA said.
“It is enough that it is believed that the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged,” the CA added.
Likewise, the CA cited testimonies from four witnesses which the Court found supportive of a finding of probable cause which include:
- testimony of main prosecution witness and Reyes’ close-in security or bodyguard Rodolfo Edrad Jr. which implicated Reyes and former Marinduque Governor Antonio Carreon as the persons who masterminded the killing of Dr. Ortega.
- testimony of Reyes’ co-accused Arwin Arandia which stated that he was the person initially hired by Edrad to kill Dr. Ortega
- testimony of Reyes’ co-accused Dennis Aranas which also identified Reyes as the mastermind in the killing of Dr. Ortega and
- admission from a person identified as Marlon Recamata alias Tagar that he was hired by a certain Bumar's “boss” to kill Dr. Ortega
“Wherefore premises considered, the Court resolves to grant, as it hereby grants, the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General. Accordingly, the Decision dated January 4, 2018 is hereby reversed and set aside and a new one is entered as follows:
- denying the petition for certiorari and prohibition dated November 12, 2013;
- affirming the Omnibus Order dated March 27, 2012 and Order dated August 29, 2013 of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 52, Puerto Princesa City, in Criminal Case No. 26839;
- reinstating the information dated March 12, 2012 in Criminal Case No. 26839 as to petitioner Mario Joel T. Reyes; and
- directing the RTC to issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner and to conduct proceedings in Criminal Case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch"
GMA News Online is already trying to reach the camp of the former governor for comment.
Ortega was slain on January 24, 2011 while shopping at a used clothes store in Puerto Princesa.
He was allegedly silenced for his hard-hitting radio commentaries about Reyes' supposed misuse of the share of the provincial government in the proceeds from the operation of the Malampaya natural gas plant off Palawan shoreline. — MDM/RSJ, GMA News