Former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes (right), ex-Coron Mayor Mario Reyes Jr. Philstar.com/AP File

Ombudsman wants Reyes back in prison for graft conviction
Elizabeth Marcelo (philstar.com) - January 10, 2018 - 1:48pm
MANILA, Philippines — Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman have urged the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to order former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes returned to prison for a prior graft conviction.
 
In an urgent omnibus motion filed on January 8, and released to the media Wednesday, the ombudsman's Office of the Special Prosecutor prayed to the court's Third Division to cancel the P60,000 bail bond that Reyes earlier posted in exchange for his provisional liberty, and instead, order him committed to prison.
 
“In spite of his conviction, accused Reyes was allowed bail, over the objections of the prosecution that accused Reyes was and remains to be a flight risk; and notwithstanding the fact that during the trial of the case, his counsel could not produce the accused before the Honorable Court nor categorically state or account of his whereabouts on several occasions,” the prosecution's motion read.
 
The motion came after Reyes was released from the Puerto Princesa City Jail last Friday as the Court of Appeals dismissed the murder case against him in connection with the killing of journalist and environmentalist Gerry Ortega in January 2011.
 
“With the advent of his recent release from detention, in relation to said murder case...the prosecution deems it necessary to file the foregoing motion,” the prosecution said.
 
The prosecution cited Reyes' record of fleeing the country in 2012 just before the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court issued a warrant of arrest against him and his younger brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes.
 
The Reyes brothers were tagged as the masterminds in the killing of Ortega who had been critical of the mining activities in the province. They were arrested in a lavish resort in Phuket, Thailand in September 2015
 
“Had it not been for the intervention of Thai authorities, accused Reyes would not have been deported to face the criminal charges against him,” the prosecution said.
 
“Considering accused Reyes' previous record and to prevent its recurrence, the cancellation of his bail and his immediate commitment to prison are warranted,” it added.
 
It was in August last year when the Sandiganbayan Third Division found Reyes guilty of graft and sentenced him to six to eight years of imprisonment.
 
The case stemmed from Reyes' alleged anomalous renewal of the permit of a small-scale mining company in 2006 found to have been over-extracting mineral ore in the province.

Reyes lawyer: 'Absurd' to consider former fugitive ex-gov a flight risk

Despite his conviction, the court allowed Reyes' provisional liberty after he posted an additional bond of P30,000 on August 29 on top of the P30,000 bail bond that he posted in 2011 when the case was filed in court.
 
Reyes' motion for reconsideration on the Third Division's ruling remains pending in court.
 
“The crime of which he was convicted is bailable. As a matter of general policy pending resolution of the MR, the court allows the accused provisional liberty provided he/she doubles the amount of bond originally required for his/her temporary liberty,” Third Division chairman and Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang earlier explained to reporters.
 
In a text message to the STAR, Reyes' lead counsel Demetrio Custodio dismissed the prosecution's argument as “absurd”.
 
“It would be absurd to even think that Governor Reyes would be a flight risk at this time, considering that he has just scored a very significant legal victory at the Court of Appeals. Why would he mitigate the value of this victory by fleeing?” Custodio said.
 
Reyes is also facing 36 counts of graft in another division of the Sandiganbayan in connection with the P1.534-billion worth of alleged disadvantageous contracts that the provincial government entered into with various private firms using proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project. He had earlier posted P1.080-million bail bond for the cases.

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