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Reyeses case tied to Malampaya

SENATOR Teofisto “TG” Guingona III   on Tuesday   expressed relief over the arrest of the  Reyes brothers in Thailand, saying  that they can shed light on the killing of environmentalist Dr. Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega and  on  the alleged misuse of P3.9 billion in proceeds from the Malampaya gas project in Palawan. 

Senate President Franklin Drilon  sought the immediate  extradition of the Reyeses while the National Press Club demanded that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should resolve a 2011   petition filed by the  Ortega family seeking for a review of the DoJ findings  of  “no probable cause” to indict the Reyes brothers for the killing.

“The long arm of the law has finally caught up with them. The fight has been lengthy and hard for Doc Gerry’s family,”  Guingona said.

The senator considered the arrest of former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Mario,   as a testament that, despite years of waiting and seeming hopelessness, a major development in the case has come to light.

Two years ago, investigations of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Guingona linked the murder of Ortega to the scandal-rocked  Malampaya project.

Guingona said that, through the testimonies of several people and NGOs, “it is clear that Gerry Ortega was hitting hard on the corruption of Malampaya funds” before he was killed.

Blue Ribbon investigations showed that 19 road improvement and two bridge construction projects in Palawan worth P420 million were grossly overpriced and failed to   conform to government standards.   

Drilon said the Philippines  can immediately request  Thailand  to extradite the Reyes brothers.   

“There is an extradition Treaty in force between the Philippines and Thailand which was ratified in 1981. The Philippines can seek the extradition of the Reyes brothers on the basis of this treaty in order to facilitate the immediate resolution of the Ortega case,” said Drilon.

“I urge Secretary Leila De Lima to coordinate with her counterpart in Thailand the immediate extradition of the Reyes brothers. The immediate arrest of the Reyes brothers will speed up the resolution of the Ortega case and provide justice to the victim’s family,” said Drilon.

The treaty aims “to make more effective the cooperation of the two countries in the repression of crime and, specifically, to regulate and thereby promote the relations between them in matters of extradition.”  

Drilon said that among the crimes specified under the Treaty include the killing or causing death to another person, abduction, kidnapping, corruption, and crimes against the laws relating to narcotics, firearms, and explosives.                   

NPC for its part   called on  De Lima to act on the appeal of the family of   Ortega  on their petition for review of the murder case.

“Now that former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, Mario, have  been arrested in Thailand and are expected to be back here to face trial for the murder of Doc Gerry and in view of her known plan to run for an elective office next year, it is imperative for  De Lima to act on the petition,”  NPC said. 

Patricia “Patty” Ortega and Mika, wife and daughter, respectively, of Ortega, went to the NPC to seek its help in relaying their appeal for the DoJ secretary to act on their 2011 petition.

Mika said their family immediately filed their petition for review with  the Justice chief after a panel of prosecutors De Lima  created found “no probable cause” to indict the Reyeses for the killing of Ortega  early that year.

The petition for review basically challenges the conclusion arrived at by the panel.

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