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)