Gerry Ortega’s family, supporters question trial transfer to QC

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.

Enduring hope

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)

NUJP demands arrest of media killing ‘mastermind’

Joel Reyes campaigning to reclaim Palawan governorship despite arrest warrant

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called for the arrest of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, alleged mastermind in the killing of Palawan broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2011.

In a statement on Ortega’s 11th death anniversary on Monday, January 24, the NUJP said former Palawan governor Joel Reyes is campaigning to reclaim the top provincial post even as he remains a fugitive from law.

“[N]ot only is former governor Joel Reyes evading his warrant of arrest for Ortega’s killing, he is running for Palawan governor, according to news reports, and is campaigning while a subject of a manhunt,” the media group said.

Reyes and brother and former Coron mayor Mario fled the country in 2012 to evade arrest related to Ortega’s murder.

Both were arrested in Phuket, Thailand in September 2015 but were freed by the Court of Appeals (CA) in January 2018.

The appellate court however reversed itself and ordered the Regional Trial Court in Puerto Princesa to “issue a warrant of arrest against the petitioner (Joel) and to conduct proceedings in Criminal Case No. 26839 with purposeful dispatch” in November 2019.

“What is clear is that due to a Court of Appeals directive in 2019, the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa had released an arrest warrant against him for [the] murder [of Ortega],” NUJP said.

Reyes is also facing separate graft charges over the alleged misuse of P1.5 billion in Malampaya funds.

Ortega, an environmentalist and known critic of the Reyeses, was the first media killing under the then Benigno Aquino government.

The broadcaster was shot in broad daylight in downtown Puerto Princesa City after leaving radio station DWAR.

The NUJP said the lack of justice over Ortega’s murder and Reyes’ bid for the governorship despite a graft conviction add to the impunity that has surrounded attacks against journalists as well as land and rights defenders.

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

The group added the lack of justice in Ortega’s killing is emblematic of the culture of impunity in the Philippines, reminding them how the powerful seem to make a mockery of the justice system.

“We stand with the Ortega family, Doc Gerry’s colleagues and friends in the environmental movement and colleagues in the media in calling for justice and in demanding the service of the arrest warrant against Reyes,” NUJP said. # (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)