It is fitting that the Senate blue ribbon committee, last Jan. 24, began an inquiry into the murder (exactly two years back), of our colleague, Puerto Princesa City’s Doc Gerry Ortega: specifically whether it was linked to his crusade against the corruption that surrounded the use—or more aptly, misuse—of Palawan’s billions of pesos of royalties from the Malampaya Gas Project.
Ortega’s killing, like that of Marlene Esperat and many more of our 154 colleagues murdered in the country since 1986, is proof of how media killings and corruption are inextricably entwined and how government’s failure—or refusal—to act speedily to collar and prosecute those who order these heinous crimes, continues to feed the culture of impunity that has characterized the continued bloodshed that has claimed not only journalists but many more victims from other sectors—activists, farmers, indigenous people, lawyers, judges, religious, etc.
In the case of Ortega, his outspoken criticism of the corruption surrounding the use of the Malampaya royalties is believed to have cost him his life.
In Esperat’s, it was her exposé of what would eventually come to be known as the Arroyo administration’s “fertilizer fund scam.”
In Ortega’s case, the accused masterminds, former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother Mario, mayor of Coron, remain free—it is believed they fled the country just days before warrants were issued for their arrest.
In Esperat’s, the alleged brains continue to report to their cushy government jobs seven years after hired gunmen barged into her home and executed her as she sat at dinner with her children.
In both murders, those who supposedly gave the orders were unequivocally named by the confessed triggermen.
And yet, not only are they still able to elude prosecution, they have yet to be called to account for and explain their roles in the cases brought against them and for which Ortega and Esperat were subjected to the ultimate censorship—death.
Further highlighting government’s apparent indifference to resolving media killings and extrajudicial murders is how quickly alleged pyramid scam mastermind Manuel Amalilio was collared in Malaysia for having a fake passport, the very same thing Joel Reyes, who authorities said was last sighted in another Asean country, is supposed to possess.
Surely, Amalilio’s arrest could not have happened without our government working with Malaysia. So, how come the same diligence to get Amalilio is not being applied to get Reyes back since, as past reports have said, Vietnamese and Thai authorities had acknowledged the entry of the mastermind of Ortega’s killing—or his entry under his assumed identity—into their countries?
Thus, does Aquino’s sorely overrated “tuwid na daan” show its true nature, a twisted morass not unlike the multibillion-peso mudholes of Palawan into which all hopes of ever realizing his promise of justice and good governance are stuck in the muck.
—NESTOR BURGOS, chair,
National Union of Journalists
of the Philippines,