Joel Reyes, ex-Palawan governor, gets 6-8 years for graft

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2015 PNP booking photo of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes

MANILA, Philippines — Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes has been sentenced to a jail term of six years and one month to eight years after being found guilty by the Sandiganbayan of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by allowing a mining firm to extract more than it was allowed to.

But the anti-graft court’s third division acquitted Reyes’ co-accused, provincial mining officer Andronico Jara Baguyo, who headed the technical secretariat of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, “for failure of the prosecution to establish his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”

The two were charged in Criminal Case No. SB-11-CRM-0088 of issuing a small scale mining permit in April 2006 to Olympic Mines and Development Corp. “despite the fact that said previous mining permit is valid and subsisting up to November 3, 2006 and even as said OMDC already mined and extracted the annual maximum 50,000 dry metric tons (DMT) of ore set forth in its previous permit (or 100,000 DMT for the two-year period), allowing in the process OMDC to mine and extract ore in excess of the allowable limit; and despite OMDC’s violations of its prior mining permit such as, but not limited to: (1) over-extraction of ore and (2) the use of heavy equipment in its mining operations which is prohibited by Republic Act 7076 and Presidential Decree 1899, as amended.”

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan third division said Reyes “acted with gross inexcusable negligence” by renewing the mining firm’s permit when its previous permit was still in effect, thus allowing it “to extract ore beyond the limits allowed by law” despite previous violations.

The former governor is also accused, along with his brother Mario, former mayor of Coron town, of masterminding the murder of broadcaster and anti-graft crusader Gerardo Ortega, who was gunned down in Puerto Princesa City in January 2011.

The two fled the country before a warrant was issued for their arrest but were tracked down in Thailand and returned to the Philippines in late 2015.

In September last year, Reyes was denied bail by a Palawan trial court.

READ THE SANDIGANBAYAN DECISION BELOW: