By Czarina Nicole Ong
The camp of former Palawan Governor Joel T. Reyes has finally filed its opposition to the motion filed by the Office of the Special Prosecutor before the Sandiganbayan Third Division, which hoped to cancel the bail he posted and have him sent back to prison.
Reyes was released from the Puerto Princesa City Jail weeks ago after the Court of Appeals (CA) granted his petition, which questioned the merit of his trial as a suspect in the 2011 murder of environmentalist and journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
Reyes still has a conviction to deal with before the anti-graft court, which ruled in August that he was guilty of graft and was sentenced to a minimum imprisonment of six years and one month and a maximum of eight years. However, he was allowed to post P60,000 bail for his provisional liberty after conviction.
The prosecution then filed an urgent omnibus motion filed on January 8, strongly urging the Sandiganbayan to cancel Reyes’ post of bail because he is considered a flight risk.
But Reyes argued otherwise. “When all of the personal and other circumstances of the accused are considered, in addition to the legal measures in place, particularly the hold departure orders as well as the cancellation of accused’s passport, the probability of flight is remote, if not nil,” his opposition read.
His lawyers further stated that Reyes intends to take advantage of this “second lease on life,” and he feels happy and comfortable now that he is reunited with family and friends.
“It would thus be irrational for accused to leave this behind for the life of a fugitive,” his opposition further stated.
Reyes strongly believes in the merit of his defense as well, and he has every intention to pursue all remedies available to overthrow his conviction. Should he fail in doing so, “accused will comply with the orders of the court,” his lawyer promised.
Reyes’ graft charge involves the issuance of the Small Scale Mining Permit to Olympic Mines and Development Corporation (OMDC) from April 6, 2006 to April 5, 2008, even though OMDC already mined and extracted the annual maximum of 50,000 dry metric tons of ore set forth by its previous permit.
Reyes and Mining Operations Officer IV Andronico Baguyo were accused of conspiring with one another and giving unwarranted benefit to OMDC since they allowed it to extract in excess of the allowable limit and using heavy equipment in its mining operations, which is prohibited by Republic Act 7076 and Presidential Decree 1899.