January 24, 2018, 9:27 am
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Reyes: I will face all charges

FORMER Palawan governor Joel Reyes yesterday made a commitment before the Sandiganbayan that he will not violate the conditions of his bail and flee the country like he did in 2012, even as the Office of the Ombudsman pressed the anti-graft court to order him re-arrested based on his conviction on a graft charge in August last year.

Arriving in court in a black shirt and faded denim pants and clutching a rosary, Reyes sat beside his son and appeared at ease while listening to proceedings that lasted less than an hour.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division gave Reyes’ legal team until Monday to submit its comment to the prosecution’s motion seeking recall of his bail. The government side was given two days to file a reply after which the issue will be deemed submitted for resolution.

The Sandiganbayan acknowledged the prosecution’s point that Reyes previously absconded in his murder case in another court concerning his alleged involvement in the assassination of broadcaster/environmentalist Gerry Ortega in 2011. But it said Reyes is still entitled to present his side and be heard in court.

Reyes, meeting reporters after the hearing, said he was disappointed that the Ombudsman is pushing for his return to detention just days after he won his liberty last week after the Court of Appeals ordered the murder case dismissed for lack of probable cause.

“I have no intention of fleeing. I am here. I have trust in the rule of law,” he said.

Asked for his reasons for fleeing the country in 2012, Reyes said he feared for his safety. “It was all due to politics. Had I stayed, I think I would not be around today speaking to you.”

On Malacañang’s objection to the dropping of his case and his release from detention, Reyes said he is hoping the words of presidential spokesman Harry Roque will not sway the balance against him.

“I respect Secretary Harry Roque but I hope he realizes that as palace spokesman, there is a tinge of conflict of interest there. His influential position can easily sway the judiciary and other government agencies (against me),” Reyes said.

Roque, former lawyer for the Ortega family, said: “The chief executive is the chief implementer of the law. Every crime is prosecuted by the executive in the name of the people of the Philippines. It is the duty and obligation of the state to accord its citizens justice. I spoke in that capacity. I have no regrets and even the President approved my statement.”

Prosecutors said one of the premises for the grant of bail to Reyes after his conviction by the Sandiganbayan was his detention because of the pending murder charge. With the CA ruling, however, the Ombudsman said it stands to reason that the grant of bail should be reconsidered in light of Reyes’ previous actions when he went into hiding for three years until his arrest in Thailand in 2015.  – With Jocelyn Montemayor
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