Reyes brothers extradited on Thursday
The deportation of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron ex-mayor Mario Reyes, the alleged masterminds of the killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega, has been tentatively set for Thursday, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
De Lima, in an interview with reporters, said Philippine National Police operatives will fetch the Reyes brothers in Bangkok, Thailand, and escort the suspects back to the country. The brothers were arrested by Thai immigration authorities in the island resort of Phuket last Sunday.
Ortega, a hard-hitting commentator of a local affiliate of Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) and a known environmental crusader in Palawan, was shot dead in broad daylight by a lone assassin in Puerto Princesa City on Jan. 24, 2011. He was a vocal critic of Palawan officials, particularly the then governor Joel Reyes, whom he accused of misusing the province’s share of royalties from the Malampaya gas field operations off Palawan.
A former bodyguard earlier pointed to the Reyes brothers as the masterminds of the Ortega murder.
Lawyer Harry Roque said the government should not stop at the arrests and must ensure that justice is meted out to the guilty, including those who plundered the Malampaya funds.
“We’re hoping for justice for Dr. Gerry Ortega’s family and for the country. All those who plundered the Malampaya funds should also be prosecuted and Palawan should be given its lawful 40 percent share from all of the gas well’s revenues,” said Roque, chair of the Center for International Law.
Roque served as counsel for the Ortega family in the murder case against the Reyeses until it was filed in court.
He is also counsel for the Kilusan Love Malampaya (KLM), a Palawan-based civil society group and residents of Palawan who filed a petition with the Supreme Court to compel the government to give the province a 40-percent share of the Malampaya royalties, in accordance with the provisions of the Local Government Code.
The petition has been pending with the high court since it was filed nearly seven years ago.
Ortega, one of the prime movers behind KLM, was a severe critic of the role of the Palawan provincial government—then headed by Joel Reyes as governor—in the handling of the Malampaya funds.
Meanwhile, the Ortega family on Tuesday challenged De Lima to resolve a petition that will ensure the continuation of the trial of the murder case at the Palawan regional trial court.
Ortega’s wife, Patty, said she was concerned about the possible outcome of the legal issue being raised at the Supreme Court by the lawyers of Joel Reyes, questioning De Lima’s creation of a second panel of prosecutors that indicted the suspects in the murder in 2012.
“The trial is already ongoing. The Reyes brothers want the Supreme Court to invalidate it and quash their warrant of arrest because of a question of technicality on how the preliminary investigation was conducted,” Patty said.
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