Justice Department creates new panel to reinvestigate murder of Palawan-based broadcaster

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The secretary of the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the formation of a new panel last 7 September 2011 to reinvestigate the murder  of Palawan-based radio broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega.

DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima created the three-man panel composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Stewart Allan A. Mariano, Vimar M. Barcellano and Gerard Gaerlan “for the purpose of conducting a reinvestigation in the case of  ‘NBI – Dr.  Patria Gloria A. Inocencio Ortega vs. Romeo Seratubias in XVI-INV-11B-00062’”.

A panel DOJ previously created, composed of senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog and Assistant State Prosecutors Bryant Jacinto Cacha and John Benedict Medina,  dismissed the case against  alleged masterminds former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, former Marinduque Gov. Jose Carrion, incumbent Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and three other in June 2011.

De Lima said the reinvestigation aims to “give both parties all the reasonable opportunity to present their evidence during the preliminary investigation.”

De Lima added that the new panel will “address the offer of additional evidence by the complainants, which was denied by the former panel in its Resolution of 2 September 2011 on the ground that an earlier resolution has already been promulgated prior to the filing of said motion, and such other issues which may be raised before the present panel.”

The 2 September 2011 resolution by the former panel dismissed the partial motion for reconsideration filed by Ortega’s widow Patria  which questioned the former panel’s 8 June 2011 dismissal of the murder charges against the alleged masterminds and other suspects.

Patria and the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation filed murder charges against former Gov.Reyes, Mayor Reyes, Gov. Carrion, lawyer Romeo Seratubias, Arturo Regalado, Percival Lecias, Armando Noel, Dennis Aranas, and Arwin Arandia. However, the former panel dropped the charges against the two Reyeses, Carreon, Seratubias, Regalado and Lecias in an 8 June 2011 order for “insufficiency of evidence”.

Ortega was shot dead last 24 January 2011 at a thrift store in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. He is a broadcaster with Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR. He was the second journalist killed in the line of duty under the new Benigno Aquino III administration.

One hundred and twenty one journalists and media workers have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 1986. Only 10 cases resulted in convictions. No mastermind has been convicted.