13-year case vs accused ex-governor Joel Reyes ‘taking too long’
The 13-year struggle for justice for slain broadcaster and environmental champion Dr. Gerry Ortega faces more delay as the trial against accused mastermind and former Palawan governor Joel Reyes has been transferred from Puerto Princesa to Quezon City (QC).
In a statement Wednesday, January 24, Ortega’s family said they find themselves on the brink of renewed grief as further delay confronts their quest for justice.
“Haven’t we already waited too long? Isn’t 13 years enough?” the family asked.
The Supreme Court (SC) granted the petition by Reyes in a decision penned last December 4 but was only recently made known to the complainants.
Reyes, patriarch of a political dynasty in Palawan, is accused as mastermind of the first media killing under the Benigno Aquino government in January 24, 2011.
The Justice for Doctor Gerry Ortega campaign and environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment led a protest rally at the SC Wednesday, saying the High Court’s decision is “questionable.”
“It just goes to show how the camp of Joel Reyes is able to stall the case, and why we must continue to demand swift justice for our slain environmental defenders,” Kalikasan national coordinator Jon Bonifacio said.
“We urge UN (United Nations) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression Irene Khan to pay close attention surrounding the Doc Gerry Ortega’s case, so she can see the reality of persistent threats to freedom of expression in the country,” Bonifacio continued.
Khan is in the Philippines for an official investigation of cases of press freedom violations, including Ortega’s murder.
The UN expert met with a representative of the Ortega family last Tuesday.
In a statement, human rights group Karapatan blamed government’s lack of political will to deliver justice for Ortega.
“The lack of political will and the extreme delay in bringing to justice the killers of slain broadcaster Gerry Ortega, and in other victims of extrajudicial killings, are now on the (Ferdinand) Marcos Jr. administration,” the group said.
The National Union of Journalists of Philippines (NUJP) joined the protest, saying it is surprised by the transfer when the accused remains in hiding, refusing to submit to the jurisdiction of the court where he was being tried.
“We strongly believe that there is no justifiable reason to transfer the case, and doing so will only prolong the trial that is already proceeding in earnest at the Palawan Regional Trial Court,” the media group said.
The Ortega family said they remain hopeful that they will ultimate find justice.
“The past 13 years have been difficult, marked by challenges. Yet, the outpouring of support from the media, environmental defenders, human rights advocates, friends, and our community sustains our determination to see this through. Today, we express immense gratitude for your unwavering solidarity and support,” it said.
“Our family remains resolute, and we continue to hope for a fair, timely, and just resolution to the case. Thank you for standing with us on this challenging journey,” it added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)