MANILA – Solicitor General Jose C. Calida, the government’s top lawyer, on Tuesday slammed the Court of Appeals for ordering the release of former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, the suspected mastermind in the assassination seven years ago of broadcaster-environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
“The CA Decision stinks. As to where the stench came from, we will investigate it,” Calida said.
The Court of Appeals earlier voided the warrant of arrest issued against Joel Reyes, citing lack of sufficient evidence for a finding of probable cause for Reyes’ indictment.
The solicitor general noted that in the past, the OSG had taken positions adverse to its clients whenever it finds them in the wrong. “As the People’s Tribune, I cannot sustain the Court of Appeals as they are clearly in the wrong,” Calida said. “We are ready and raring to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be no miscarriage of justice under my watch,” Calida added.
“The presence or absence of the elements of the crime is evidentiary in nature and is a matter of defense that may be passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits,” Calida argued, in reaction to part of the CA’s justification for throwing out the case against the former governor.
According to Calida, a trial could yield more evidence favorable to either side after interrogations of the witnesses either on direct examination or on cross-examination. “What is important is that there is some rational basis for going ahead with judicial inquiry into the case.”
He added that, “In this case, from the perspective of a reasonably discreet and prudent man, there is sufficient ground to order the arrest of Joel Reyes.”
The issues on credibility of a witness and admissibility of evidence are matters best scrutinized in great detail during trial proper,” Calida added, referring to the reasons cited by the Court of Appeals. “An exhaustive debate on the credibility of a witness is not within the province of the determination of probable cause.”
The decision, coming just days before the seventh anniversary of the assassination that drew outrage from media and environmental groups, has stunned the family of Ortega, who said they are still consulting with lawyers as to their next move.
One of the Ortega family’s previous lawyers, presidential spokesman Harry Roque, had weighed in against the CA ruling on Monday, and vowed to help them anew even in his personal capacity. He said President Duterte is aware of the latest developments.- with a report from JV Arcena, News5