Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque “should be more circumspect in his statements” if he chooses to remain in public service, a lawyer said on Saturday.
Ferdinand Topacio made the statement during the Saturday Forum at Annabel’s restaurant in Quezon City.
According to Topacio, Roque “has to choose. If he wants to continue his advocacies as a [former]congressman with respect to [the]Dengvaxia [vaccine]and the cases he handled when he was a private lawyer… then he should leave public service. But if he chooses to remain in public service, he should be more circumspect in his statements.”
On Thursday, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes filed a petition for indirect contempt against Roque before the Court of Appeals (CA) in connection with the Palace spokesman’s statements over the court’s grant of a petition filed by Reyes.
The former governor was released from the Puerto Princesa City Jail on January 5 after the CA granted his petition, which had challenged a finding of the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 52 of probable cause in the murder case that was filed against him in connection with the death in 2011 of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega, according to his lawyer Demetrio Custodio.
Meanwhile, prosecutors under the Office of the Ombudsman are asking the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division to cancel Reyes’ bail and are seeking his immediate commitment to prison “in view of his conviction” of graft in connection with the renewal of a firm’s small-scale mining permit in 2006.
Roque, former lawyer of Ortega’s family, has commended the Office of the Ombudsman’s move.
“Considering accused Reyes’ previous record and to prevent its recurrence, the cancelation of his bail and his immediate commitment to prison are warranted,” the prosecution, which recalled the arrest of Reyes and his brother in Thailand in 2015, said in part in an urgent omnibus motion.
In a hearing on Thursday, the court gave the defense until Monday to comment on the prosecution’s plea, and the prosecution until Wednesday to reply to the defense’s comment.
After this, the urgent omnibus motion shall be deemed submitted for resolution.
During the hearing, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who leads the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division, asked Custodio if he could guarantee that Reyes will not flee until the court has resolved all pending matters in the case.
The lawyer answered in the affirmative.
In a decision promulgated on August 29, 2017, the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division convicted Reyes in the graft case, which was filed against him and another individual in 2011 in connection with the renewal of a firm’s small-scale mining permit in 2006.
The court, which sentenced Reyes to six years up to eight years in prison with perpetual disqualification from holding public office, is yet to rule on the motion for reconsideration.
Meanwhile, it acquitted Andronico Baguyo–who was then a mining operations officer and then-head of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board Technical Secretariat–for the prosecution’s failure to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.