DOJ to block attempt to allow Reyes brothers undergo ‘executive checkup’
Malacañang is confident that the Reyes brothers, who are suspects to the killing of radio broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega, will not be placed under hospital arrest.
In a radio interview, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said that the government has a strong case against the Reyeses.
“[Justice] Secretary [Leila] de Lima will have a strong position on that,” Valte said of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes.
“Certainly, the prosecutors will have something to say about their proposed motion to file for hospital arrest,” she added.
The Reyeses were scheduled to face the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court on Monday.
The two arrived in Puerto Princesa City on Friday afternoon a few hours after they were deported from Thailand where they had been arrested for violating Thai residency laws.
Valte also cited information indicating the brothers lived lavishly, like tourists, while they were in hiding in Thailand.
“Alam naman po natin na bago po sila [umuwi]very recently ay parang mga turista po ang kanilang pamumuhay doon sa Thailand [We know that before they were brought back to the Philippines, they lived as tourists in Thailand],” she said.
According to the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, the Reyes brothers lived lavishly for more than three years in Thailand. Surveillance reports said they stayed in a villa in Rawai Area in Phuket where they were arrested last Sunday.
They also drove around the resort state in a sport utility vehicle (SUV).
Rod Valmoria, the Reyes brothers’ lawyer, earlier tried to secure an “executive checkup” for the two. He said Mario had fever while Joel had hypertension.
Valte said the Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court now has jurisdiction over the two brothers.
Ortega was shot in the head at point-blank range while shopping in Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan, an island known as the Philippines’ last environmental frontier but which has suffered from illegal logging, mining and overfishing.
The gunman, Marlon Recamata, was caught trying to flee the scene and police said his weapon was owned by one of Governor Reyes’s lawyers.
Recamata’s arrest led to the arrest of several others who pointed to the Reyes brothers as the mastermind.
Aside from alleged environmental crimes, Ortega had accused the governor of siphoning off millions of dollars in revenues from a gas field off the coast of Palawan when he was governor.
The brothers’ escape reinforced the Philippines’ reputation for having a “culture of impunity,” with powerful men free to kill or intimidate political opponents, journalists and other critics without any punishment.
Meanwhile, Valte assured the public that the Ortega case will not be taken for granted after de Lima steps down as justice secretary to pursue her political ambitions.
She said that law enforcement authorities have worked hard to arrest the two former officials, who are among the country’s “Big Five” fugitives.
“Hindi lang po ‘yung kaso ng magkapatid na Reyes ang hindi po mapapabayaan, ngunit ‘yung marami pa rin pong mga kaso [We will ensure that the case of the Reyes brothers will not be neglected, as well as many other cases],” Valte said.
Interior Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento earlier said the Reyeses will not be accorded any special privileges while in prison.
”That won’t happen. Everyone is equal in the eyes of the State. Even the Constitution has this equal protection clause. There will be no special treatment,” Sarmiento added.
Malacañang on Friday said the Reyeses would be treated like ordinary prisoners.
“Applicable rules on detainees will be applied to them,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.