Alleged masterminds in Palawan broadcaster slay arrested in Thailand

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The two alleged masterminds in the killing of Palawan broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega in 2011 were arrested in Thailand Sunday, September 20.

Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Coron mayor Mario Reyes were arrested for overstaying in Thailand and have been detained at the Thai immigration office for deportation. The Reyes brothers are the primary suspects in the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa, Palawan province last 24 January 2011.

Michaella Ortega, daughter of the slain journalist, confirmed the arrest to CMFR. She said that the information came from the Crimnal Investigation and Detection Group of Task Force Tugis. Task Force Tugis has been pursuing the Reyes brothers since 2012. The task force, according to her, is coordinating with Thailand officials for the deportation of the Reyeses.

The Reyes brothers fled the country following the issuance of an arrest warrant by the Palawan Regional Trial court against them in 2012. In the same year, President Benigno Aquino III offered a PHP 2 million reward for their arrest.

Michaella Ortega told CMFR that upon the Reyes brothers’ deportation, they hope the suspects will be arraigned in a proper court. The family has remained hopeful that they will get justice despite the passing of five years since the murder.

Gerry Ortega, a broadcaster for Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR, was in a Puerto Princesa store when he was gunned down in 2011.

Ortega was a known critic of the local government and of mining companies in Palawan. An environmental activist, Ortega accused the allegedly unrestrained mining activities in the province of destroying the environment. He supported a petition filed before the Supreme Court in behalf of Palawenos to invalidate a revenue sharing agreement on the Malampaya natural gas project in Palawan between the local and national governments.

Later, the police apprehended and arrested a Marlon Recamata who confessed to shooting Ortega.

Recamata’s arrest led to the arrest of other suspects who identified the Reyes brothers as the masterminds in Ortega’s killing. Recamata was convicted and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua on 7 May 2013.

Under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, a person sentenced with reclusion perpetua faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.

There have been 149 cases of journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986. Only 15 out of the cases of have been partly resolved with the conviction of the gunmen. No mastermind has so far been prosecuted, with the exception of the alleged principals in the November 23, 2010 Ampatuan (Maguindanao) Massacre, whose trial is ongoing.