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NUJP, PTFOMS back OSG to have ex-Palawan governor rearrested

Mario Joel Reyes and brother are alleged masterminds in the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for slain Palawan broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega as the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) urged the Supreme Court (SC) to have former Palawan governor Mario Joel Reyes rearrested as alleged mastermind in the murder case.

The media union said it also supports Reyes’ continued trial in the 11 year case.

“We welcome moves by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) to have him (Reyes) rearrested,” the NUJP said.

In a formal motion earlier this month, the OSG has argued that “essential requisites” are absent in the High Court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order that allowed Reyes to leave jail.

“There is now a finding of strong evidence of petitioner’s guilt, there is no invasion, much less a material and substantial invasion of [his] right should he be ordered re-arrested,” the OSG argued.

NUJP said a murder suspect like Reyes who can that evade arrest and go about his political business can influence the case.

“[W]hile Reyes may be within his rights to run for office, it is likely that he does not have the right to do it outside of government custody,” the group said.

NUJP added that Reyes’ temporary freedom may only embolden those who seek to silence the critical press and put the entire media community at greater risk.

PTFOMS supports OSG petition

The Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS) also said it “fully backs and supports” OSG’s move for the lifting of the SC’s March 23, 2022 TRO favoring the alleged mastermind.

“We believe that the evidence of guilt is strong in the criminal case filed against Reyes in connection with the slaying of Gerry Ortega,” PTFOMS executive director and Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco said in an April 27 statement.

PTFOMS pointed out that Reyes was tagged by his former bodyguard Rodolfo Edrad as the mastermind behind the killing of Ortega, who had criticized the former governor for the supposed destruction of the environment in the province.

Also implicated in the killing is his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes. The two are running for governor and mayor, respectively, in the May 9 elections.

Earlier, Egco also supported OSG’s investigation into the 2018 Court of Appeals decision to release Reyes from detention due to alleged insufficiency of evidence in the murder case.

In 2019, the CA reinstated the murder charges against the former Palawan governor.

Ortega family to press for justice

In a statement issued during a press conference on Wednesday, Ortega’s widow Patty said their family believes the slain broadcaster will still be given justice.

“I believe there is justice. I believe that the Supreme Court will do what is right so justice will prevail,” she said.

Patty said she is grateful to the NUJP, PTFOMs and other groups who have continuously offered support for their quest for justice for her slain husband. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP: Where is justice in Doc Gerry’s killing?

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) bewailed the lack of justice for the killing of a broadcaster in Palawan exactly a decade ago.

In a statement, the media group urged the Court of Appeals to conduct proceedings to prosecute the accused in the killing of journalist, environmentalist and good governance advocate Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega on January 24, 2011.

Ortega was shot dead by a gunman at a thrift store he visited after hosting his program “Ramatak” on the Puerto Princesa City radio station dwAR-FM.

He was the first journalist killed under the Benigno Aquino presidency.

The gunman was almost immediately caught, followed quickly by other members of the hit team, all of whom named those who allegedly ordered the hit – former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, then the Coron mayor, as well as other accomplices.

Most of the accused have since been convicted, except the Reyes brothers who fled the country in March 2012.

They were arrested in Thailand in September 2015 and deported back to the Philippines.

Joel Reyes was ordered freed by the Court of Appeals on January 2018 but he was rearrested and jailed in Camp Bagong Diwa after his conviction for graft by the Sandiganbayan.

In November 2019 the appellate court reversed its January 2018 decision and ordered the resumption of the Ortega murder trial.

The NUJP noted that trials for the murder of journalists are unusually long in the Philippines, itself a form of injustice to the victims and their families.

“[I]t took a decade for a verdict to be handed down on those accused of carrying out the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre, which claimed the lives of 58 persons, 32 of them journalists. And even then, the legal process is far from over with appeals filed and scores of other suspects still at large,” the group said.

The NUJP said the families endure the protracted process and the dangers of harassments and threats from the masterminds.

“It is a testament to their courage that neither the families of the massacre victims nor of Doc Gerry have wavered in their search for justice, despite the many dangers and obstacles placed in their way,” the NUJP said.

“[B]y any standards, a decade without justice is clearly justice too long denied for Doc Gerry, his wife Patty, and their children. We urge the trial court to take to heart the CA’s order to conduct proceedings in criminal case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch,” the group added.

In a Facebook post, Ortega’s son Joaquin Philippe said their family has already learned to live without their father but the late broadcaster and his battle against corruption and greed are still remembered.

“That battle is far from over. I don’t believe justice is a myth, but I believe our society’s current systems need to change,” the young Ortega wrote. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP presses for justice on Gerry Ortega’s 9th death anniv

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) renewed its call for justice for broadcaster Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan on the ninth anniversary of his killing.

In a statement, the NUJP said it calls on the courts to resume trials against alleged masterminds in Ortega’s murders after the Court of Appeals (CA) reversed a 2018 ruling clearing former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, the primary suspect.

The group said the CA  ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Reyes) and to conduct proceedings in criminal case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” last November.

“Today, as we remember Doc Gerry, we call on the courts to let the wheels of justice finally turn, but not turn slowly,” the group said.

Hopes that the alleged brains behind Ortega’s murder would be held accountable had been dashed when co-accused former Coron, Palawan mayor Mario Reyes was granted bail in 2016 and his brother Joel was cleared of the murder charge and freed by the Court of Appeals in January 2018.

The former governor was back behind bars however after he was convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan three weeks later.

The NUJP expressed optimism in a conviction as the gunman and all the members of the hit team were arrested, prosecuted, and convicted.

“In a rare instance, the hired killers named the alleged masterminds, who fled the country in 2012 soon after arrest warrants were issued against them but were captured in Thailand three years after and brought back to stand trial,” the NUJP said.

Ortega—also an environmentalist, public servant, good governance advocate and civic leader—had just finished hosting his program on radio station DWAR when shot dead.

The NUJP also noted that the victim’s family never wavered in their struggle for justice, adding it can do no less.

The NUJP is set to light candles for Ortega at the Sgt. Esguerra gate of ABS-CBN tonight, January 24, as it also calls for the renewal of the media company’s legislative franchise President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to block at the House of Representatives. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Eight years after, justice remains elusive for Doc Gerry Ortega

Jan. 24, 2019

On this day eight years ago, environmentalist, good governance advocate and broadcaster Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega was shot dead in an ukay-ukay shop in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Eight years after, justice remains elusive for Doc Gerry and his family.

Doc Gerry’s case is illustrative of nearly all the media killings in this country or, more accurately, the ones authorities, with no trace of irony, consider “solved.”

For, while the hired guns and accomplices who planned and carried out the hit on Doc Gerry have been tried and convicted, the masterminds remain scot free.

Studies by media groups indicate that most murders of journalists are ordered by local politicians or government officials seeking to silence criticism and prevent scrutiny of their corruption and other misdeeds.

That they remain unpunished proves that injustice in the country – not only for slain journalists but for practically each and every Filipino whose rights have been violated – is rooted in a system of governance in which the corrupt and abusive thrive.

As we remember Doc Gerry, we also honor his family, whose courage and determination to pursue justice have been and will continue to be an inspiration for other families of slain journalists and all those seeking the same ends.

Even as we continue to demand justice for Doc Gerry and for each and every one of the 185 colleagues we have lost since 1996, let us remain steadfast in fulfilling our mandate as journalists – to be the people’s watchdogs against misgovernance and serve their right to know.

National Directorate

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES