Ortega Murder Suspect Denied Bail
CMFR/PHILIPPINES – A primary suspect in the 2011 murder of Palawan environmentalist and broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega was denied bail Thursday, 8 September 2016 by a Puerto Princesa court.
Palawan is 789 kilometers south of Manila.
Judge Angelo Arizala of the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court Branch 52 denied the bail petition of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes. Reyes will continue to be detained at the Puerto Princesa City Jail.
Reyes underwent direct examination for his bail petition on 10 May 2016, during which he denied allegations that he planned the killing of Ortega.
In a statement posted on Facebook, Michaella Ortega, daughter of Gerry Ortega, said that the Ortega family welcomes the decision of Arizala “after having found strong evidence of guilt” for the murder of the late broadcaster.
In a CMFR phone interview, Ortega said that the court will proceed with the murder trial this month.
Former Coron mayor Mario Reyes, the brother of Joel Reyes and co-accused in the murder, was allowed to post bail of PHP 500,000 on 6 May 2016 by the same court. The brothers ran for mayor and vice mayor of Coron in the 2016 elections, but lost.
After fleeing the country in 2012, the Reyes brothers were arrested last year for overstaying in Thailand. Their deportation revived the legal proceedings in the Ortega case.
Earlier this year, Arturo “Nonoy” Regalado, a close aide of Joel Reyes, was sentenced to reclusion perpetua after the court established that he provided the money to purchase the gun used in Ortega’s murder. In 2013, gunman Marlon Recamata was also sentenced to a maximum of 40 years in prison after he confessed to the killing and identified the brothers as the masterminds of the crime.
Regalado and Recamata are serving their sentence at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City.
A known critic of the local government and mining companies in the province, Gerry Ortega was gunned down in a store in Puerto Princesa Palawan in 2011. The court has established Ortega’s expose of Joel Reyes’ alleged misuse of the Malampaya gas funds as motive for his murder.
There have been 152 journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986. Only 17 out of these cases have been partly resolved with the conviction of the gunmen.