Solicitor General Jose Calida on Tuesday bared plans of asking the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse the Court of Appeals (CA) decision ordering the release of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes who was accused of murdering broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.
“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 said the CA decision, which was made public over the weekend, "stinks."
"As to where the stench came from, we will investigate it,” he said.
Voting 3 to 2 on January 4, the CA Former Eleventh Division voided the warrant of arrest issued by the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court Branch 52 against Reyes, citing lack of sufficient evidence for a finding of probable cause for the former governor's indictment.
The CA also ordered the local court to discontinue the trial against the former governor.
However, Calida said 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.
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. In this case, from the perspective of a reasonably discreet and prudent man, there is sufficient ground to order the arrest of Joel Reyes,” Calida said.
In voting for Reyes' release, the CA said there was no evidence against the former governor aside from the testimony of Rodolfo Edrad alias Bumar.
The appellate court, however, found Edrad's testimony riddled with inconsistencies, thus it cannot be "validly used as evidence against Reyes."
Calida said the issues on credibility of a witness and admissibility of evidence are matters to be scrutinized "in great detail" during trial proper.
“An exhaustive debate on the credibility of a witness is not within the province of the determination of probable cause," he said.
Malacañang earlier deplored the ruling by the appellate court with presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, a former lawyer of the Ortega family in the case, calling it a "very sad development" for the freedom of the press in the country.
Ortega was slain on January 24, 2011 while shopping in a used clothes store in Puerto Princesa.
He was allegedly silenced for his radio commentaries about the Reyes' supposed misuse of the share of the provincial government in the proceeds from the operation of the Malampaya natural gas plant off Palawan. —KG, GMA News