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.
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)