MANILA -- The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) questioned the Court of Appeals (CA) ruling that cleared former Palawan governor Joel Reyes of murder charges over the killing of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega.

“The CA decision stinks. As to where the stench came from, we will investigate it,” Solicitor General Jose Calida said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“As the People’s Tribune, I cannot sustain the Court of Appeals as they are clearly in the wrong. We are ready and raring to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court. There will be no miscarriage of justice under my watch,” Calida said.

“The presence or absence of the elements of the crime is evidentiary in nature and is a matter of defense that may be passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits,” he added.

The CA earlier voided the warrant of arrest issued against Reyes, citing lack of sufficient evidence for finding a probable cause for his indictment.

Calida said that in the past, the OSG had taken positions adverse to its clients whenever it found them in the wrong.

According to Calida, a trial could yield more evidence favorable to either side after interrogations of the witnesses, either on direct examination or on cross-examination. “What is important is that there is some rational basis for going ahead with judicial inquiry into the case.”

“In this case, from the perspective of a reasonably discreet and prudent man, there is sufficient ground to order the arrest of Joel Reyes,” Calida said.

“The issues on credibility of a witness and admissibility of evidence are matters to be scrutinized in great detail during trial proper,” he said, referring to the reasons cited by the appellate court. “An exhaustive debate on the credibility of a witness is not within the province of the determination of probable cause.”

Calida’s statement came a day after Malacanang, through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, called the CA ruling a travesty of justice and a sad development on freedom of the press in the country.

Roque said the government would exhaust all legal remedies to nullify the decision of the appellate court clearing Reyes of criminal liability.

On Monday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said he was uncertain whether the decision could be appealed due to the doctrine of double jeopardy.

Double jeopardy refers to the legal doctrine that prohibits the filing of the same criminal case against the same accused already cleared by the court.

However, Aguirre said the government through the OSG would study the decision to see whether it bared the government from appealing the case.

The former governor was freed from the Puerto Princesa City Jail Friday after the CA, in a ruling, found no basis for the Palawan Regional Trial Court to order his arrest or convict him for Ortega’s death.

According to the CA’s Former 11th Division, Special Division of Five, there was no evidence presented to try Reyes for Ortega’s killing.

“Our hands are tied by our bounded duty to administer justice and abide by the law. No evidence, no conviction. So be it,” the appellate court said in its 24-page decision penned by Associate Justice Normandie Pizarro.

“This Court could only hope that he would take advantage and give full-faith and meaning to this second lease on life given him. He is definitely saved from the 20-year or so imprisonment metable to the offense charged,” read the decision dated last January 4.

“Call it a second chance afforded him by God, or a lucky three-point play for him to use a common street lingo or a miracle in his favor, the petitioner (Reyes) must by all means be exonerated from the charge,” it said.

The special division of five justices of the CA division voted 3-2 to acquit Reyes.

The two magistrates who dissented -- Associate Justices Maria Filemona Singh and Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob -- held that the determination of probable cause in issuing the arrest rests on the trial judge handling the case.

On Saturday, Ortega’s daughter Mika lamented that the CA decision came only a few weeks before the seventh anniversary of her father’s murder, or as she called it, “seven years of fighting for justice and press freedom”.

Ortega, who had been hailed as an environmental hero, was gunned down on Jan. 24, 2011 in Puerto Princesa City after having just finished his radio program “Ramatak”.

The gunman, Marlon Recamata, was arrested and pleaded guilty to murder charges in February 2011.

Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, had been tagged by Recamata as the masterminds behind the killing of Ortega, who had criticized the former governor for the supposed destruction of the environment in the province. (PNA)