Widow of slain journalist files charges against former governors, mayor

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – THE WIDOW of a Palawan radio broadcaster named two former provincial governors and a town mayor suspects in the 24 January 2011 killing of her husband. (Palawan province is 592 kilometers south of Manila.)

Patria Ortega, wife of slain Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega, filed murder charges against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, former Marinduque Gov. Jose Carreon, and Coron, Palawan Mayor Mario Reyes Jr. in a supplemental complaint-affidavit she filed last 14 February 2011 before the Department of Justice in Manila. (Marinduque is a province approximately 159 kilometers south of Manila.)

Patria filed the five-page supplemental complaint-affidavit based on the affidavits of Arturo Regalado, Rodolfo Edrad Jr. (also known as Jun-Jun Bumar), and Armando Noel. Edrad  was allegedly a former security aide of Reyes and Carreon. He and Noel  allegedly hired the gunman who killed Ortega and the latter’s lookout for a fee of P150,000 (USD 3,500). Regalado, allegedly also a former aide of Reyes, bought the gun used to kill broadcaster Ortega.

Edrad, Noel and Regalado were also named in the supplemental affidavit. Others charged were: the gunman, Marlon Recamata; former provincial administrator and lawyer Romero Seratubias; and lookout Dennis Aranas.

Patria said that “(i)t came as no surprise to me that Edrad pointed to the involvement of former Governor Joel T. Reyes as the mastermind of the murder of my husband and of Coron Mayor Mario T. Reyes, Jr. as having given money to Edrad after the murder was committed.”

She said that her husband was “the fiscalizer and foremost critic of then Governor Mario Joel T. Reyes.”

“In his anti-corruption campaign involving the provincial government of Palawan, it was then Governor Joel T. Reyes who was the principal target of his criticisms. In particular, Doc. Gerry was critical of  Gov. Reyes and the provincial government of Palawan and then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the unconstitutional, illegal and anomalous arrangement with respect to the Malampaya Funds,” Patria said in her supplemental affidavit. Malampaya is a natural gas project in Palawan, part of the proceeds of which, Ortega alleged, was being pocketed by Reyes.

She added that Doc Gerry also criticized Reyes for allowing mining operations in Palawan. Reyes chaired the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) during his term as governor, and was again appointed to the Council in 2010.

“In December 2010, after the PCSD gave approval to large scale mining in the province, Doc. Gerry and his group, together with Bantay Kalikasan of Ms. Gina Lopez, decided to launch a campaign against the said decision and mining in general,” Patria said. “On 23 January 2011, Doc. Gerry, his group and Bantay Kalikasan, launched the Ten Million Signatures Campaign against and for the banning of mining operations in the province of Palawan.”

Gerry Ortega, an anti-mining advocate and a veterinarian, was shot dead on 24 January 2011 inside a thrift store near his veterinary clinic in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. He is the second journalist killed in the line of duty under the Benigno Aquino III administration. One hundred nineteen (119) journalists and media workers have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 1986.

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