Neither closure nor justice

Statement of the FFFJ on the murder complaint against the alleged masterminds in the killing of Gerry Ortega

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists Inc. (FFFJ) calls for the prompt preliminary investigation of the murder complaint against the alleged masterminds in the killing of Palawan-based broadcaster and environment activist Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega. This follows other cases currently in court which have been filed against other alleged masterminds in the killing of other journalists. These should be speedily resolved if the Philippines is to dismantle the culture of impunity.

Last 14 February 2011, Patria Ortega, widow of Doc Gerry, filed a murder complaint against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, former Marinduque Gov. Jose Carreon, and Coron town, Palawan Mayor Mario Reyes Jr. before the Department of Justice in Manila. Local authorities earlier filed charges against the gunman and his accomplices.

Of the cases on record since 2001, there has been no successful prosecution of any mastermind in the killing of a journalist.

Around December 2008, the case against the alleged mastermind in the murder of journalist Philip Agustin, former Dingalan town, Aurora Mayor Jaime Ylarde, was dismissed.

The case against the two alleged masterminds in the killing of columnist-broadcaster Marlene Esperat has been on hold pending the resolution of a petition for certiorari filed by accused Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay.

Only the case against the alleged mastermind-killer of broadcaster Herson “Bombo Boy” Hinolan has progressed, with the prosecution resting its case last year.

Meanwhile, only Andal “Unsay” Ampatuan Jr. is on trial among the 22 accused, all surnamed Ampatuan, who allegedly planned and executed the 23 November 2009 Massacre in Maguindanao.

The delay in the prosecution of these alleged masterminds are manifestations of the problems of the Philippine judicial system; they deny the slain and their kin the justice they deserve.

Lawyers of alleged masterminds use the vagueness of the provisions to protect the “Rights of an accused” to shield their clients from arrest, detention, arraignment, and trial. The FFFJ has called for a review of the rules of court and other criminal proceedings, the abuse of which has contributed to the culture of impunity in the Philippines.

The FFFJ respects the rights of the accused but must emphasize the need for the justice system to respect the families of the victims by upholding legal practice that will bring these cases to their just conclusion, penalizing the guilty and exonerating the innocent as quickly as possible.

It will not do for court proceedings to drag on for years, in effect allowing the killers of journalists and the people behind them to escape punishment, and affording the kin of those slain neither closure nor justice.

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