Alleged killing mastermind asks court to stop reinvestigation

CMFR/Philippines – A former governor filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition last 3 October 2011 asking the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the reinvestigation into his alleged involvement in the planning of the murder of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.

In his petition, former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes through his counsels alleged grave abuse of discretion on the part of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Assistant State Prosecutors Stewart Allan Mariano, Vilmar Barcellano and Gerard Gaerlan, and widow Patria Ortega. The Philippine Law Dictionary quoting Palma v. Q & S Inc., 123 Phil 960 defines grave abuse of discretion as “the capricious and arbitrary exercise of judgment.” Palawan is a province approximately 593 kilometers from Manila.

De Lima, Reyes claimed, “gravely abused her discretion in issuing Department Order (DO) No. 710, which constituted the Respondent Panel of Prosecutors to conduct a reinvestigation of I.S. No. IV-17-INQ-11A-00005.”

Last 7 September 2011, De Lima issued DO 710 creating a new panel to “address the offer of additional evidence by the complainants, which was denied by the former panel in its Resolution of 2 September 2011.” I.S. No. IV-17-INQ-11A-00005, entitled “Patria Gloria A. Inocencio Ortega vs. Romeo Seratubias, et al,” refers to the murder complaint filed by widow Patria Ortega against Reyes and nine others.

Reyes argued in his 40-page petition that “the purpose of the reinvestigation – to afford the parties due process and give them the opportunity to present their evidence – was already accomplished by the preliminary investigation conducted by the original panel of prosecutors composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Dayog and Assistant State Prosecutors Cacha and Medina”.

Reyes also said “the ‘additional evidence’ sought to be addressed by the reinvestigation was already laid before and passed upon by the panel of prosecutors on (Patria’s) motions for reconsideration of its resolution”. He added that the reinvestigation “aims at nothing but to persecute (Reyes), who had already undergone the rigors and anxiety of the preliminary investigation of IS No. IV-INQ-11A-00005.”

Patria Ortega filed a motion for partial reconsideration 01 July 2011 after the former panel of prosecutors dismissed the charges against Reyes and five other suspects for lack of sufficient evidence on 8 June 2011. The widow also filed a motion to re-open the preliminary investigation last 27 June 2011.

Broadcaster and environment activist Gerry Ortega was the second journalist killed in the line of duty under the 15-month old Benigno Aquino III administration. He was shot dead 24 January 2011 in Puerto Princesa City. Ortega’s case is one of the few cases in which the alleged mastermind has been identified.