Ortega case: still all talk, no action
Last Jan. 24, we marked the fourth year since the murder of Dr. Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega, the Puerto Princesa City broadcaster, environmentalist and anticorruption crusader who was gunned down in broad daylight by a hired assassin shortly after hosting his daily radio program. Since that tragic incident, the
accused masterminds—former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes and his brother Mario—have remained in hiding and the wheels of justice continue to grind painstakingly slow.
Two key issues the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines wants to raise today.
First is the continued failure of our law enforcement agencies to capture high-profile suspects in landmark media-killing cases. This speaks volumes about this government’s lack of judicial and political resolve to address
violence in general and the scourge of impunity with which media killings continue to be carried out.
Second is the characteristically slow pace of the legal and judicial processes in the Ortega murder case. This can and must be addressed proactively by the
Department of Justice and the national political leadership. Only such positive action can prove an affirmative policy response to impunity. Failure to do so can only mean government doesn’t care any about impunity.
On the hunt for the Reyes brothers, the government’s early promises to get them have degenerated from rhetoric to amnesia. There is, in fact, no sign a manhunt is even taking place, insofar as the family and relatives of the victim are concerned. Even the posters of the fugitive brothers put up at one time by the police in public places have been torn down. The government’s assurance that something is being done to bring the Reyes brothers to justice is not matched by deeds. Over three years, and the government, with all its presumed access to law enforcement technologies and resources, has nothing to show.
The case is pending in the Supreme Court, after the Court of Appeals curiously upheld the defense’s claim that the creation of a second panel by the DOJ, which indicted the Reyes brothers and their accomplices, was illegal. A credible and simple recourse
offered by the Ortega family is for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to resolve the petition for review which they filed after the first DOJ panel dismissed the complaint. But the DOJ has not budged on the issue, allowing the murder
trial to proceed under the ominous possibility that the brains might be let off the hook without even facing the evidence of their guilt.
As we marked the fourth year since the Ortega murder, we challenge this government to once and for all depart from the rhetoric of promises and keep to the realm of concrete and tangible actions: Launch a real manhunt to bring the Reyes brothers to the custody of the courts and find concrete solutions to speed up the prosecution of the Ortega murder case and other media killings.
—RUPERT FRANCIS MANGILIT,
National Union of Journalists
of the Philippines,