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Alleged mastermind no longer faces charges in murder of Filipino journalist

The Court of Appeals has affirmed its earlier decision dismissing the murder case against former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, the alleged mastermind in the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerardo Ortega.

By a 3-2 vote, the Special Tenth Division of the Court of Appeals denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima of the 13 March 2013 CA decision for "lack of merit". The March 2013 Court of Appeals decision granted the petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by Joel Reyes questioning his reinstatement as one of the accused in the Ortega murder case.

The court said that "[its March 2013] Decision has not clipped the any power of the Secretary of Justice to review the finding of any prosecutor but the power should be used by observing proper procedural protocols in accord with the Rules governing investigations of cases. In the case at bench, there was already a 'petition by the proper party', creating the occasion for the exercise of such power by the Secretary of Justice but latter did not."

The Court previously said the Justice Secretary should have acted on the motion for reconsideration of the Ortega family instead of continuing with the reinvestigation. Patria Ortega filed a motion for reconsideration of the first DOJ panel's dismissal of murder complaints against Joel Reyes and four others including his brother former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes on 29 September 2011, 22 days after De Lima created the second panel.

The six-page Court of Appeals resolution reiterated that "the resolution of the First Panel of Prosecutors which found no probable cause against Reyes for insufficiency of evidence was not erroneous."

The six-page resolution was promulgated 27 September 2013, and was penned by Associate Justice Angelita Gacutan. Associate Justices Fernanda Peralta and Francisco Acosta concurred, while Associate Justices Noel Tijam and Romeo Barza dissented.

Alex Avisado, Counsel for the Ortega Family, released a statement stating that "We are unfazed by this latest ruling from the Court of Appeals which is purely based on a technicality. We will continue our pursuit of justice for the murder of Dr. Gerry Ortega all the way up to the Supreme Court. Now that it has been shown that Doc Gerry Ortega was killed because of his expose on the plunder of Malampaya funds, it would be a travesty and an injustice to let the masterminds ex Gov Joel Reyes and Mayor Marjo Reyes go free. We still believe that in the end, justice will only be for the deserving."

The Reyeses remain at large, and are allegedly in hiding abroad.

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