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)