A PUBLIC relations practitioner sent me a letter from lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, counsel of former Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes, one of the accused in the murder of radio journalist Gerardo Ortega, reacting to our March 7 column about the killing. I will quote the letter first, and make my comments afterwards:
?As counsel of former Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes, please allow me to comment on some points you raised in your column of 07 March 2011 regarding the assassination of radio commentator Gerardo Ortega last January in Puerto Princesa:
?1. You referred to two triggermen who, ?caught by the police shortly after the murder, implicated two former governors as the mastermind.? Fact is, there was only one triggerman, a Marlon Ricamata, who never implicated Governor Reyes, or any other former governor for that matter.
?2. You stated that the NBI report said that Reyes went abroad at the time that the crime was to be committed to provide him with an alibi. But then, Governor Reyes was abroad way before the crime was committed on a long-planned trip to accompany his only daughter who will be studying abroad. He helped enroll her and find a place for her to stay. To conjecture otherwise would be most unfair to Governor Reyes.
?3. You stated that Mayor Edward Hagedorn was ?surprised? about reports in the Manila press pointing to him as the alleged mastermind. While we have pointed out Mayor Hagedorn?s inordinate interest in the Ortega case, we diligently monitor all news reports in media about this case and nowhere have we come across any item that points to Mayor Hagedorn as the mastermind?.?
My comments: The column was based on an official report of the NBI signed by Director Magtanggol B. Gatdula, accompanied by sworn statements of respondents and witnesses. On No. 1, from the statement of respondent Rodolfo Edrad Jr. y Osea alias ?Bumar??:
?During the month of June 2008, he applied as a close-in security of former Marinduque Gov. Jose Antonio N. Carreon. He worked for him as such for two years until after he lost his gubernatorial bid in the May 2010 election. He met Governor (Joel T.) Reyes during the time that he was the close-in security of former Governor Carreon...
?Some time during the last week of June 2010 in the morning, while Bumar was inside the garage of the house of Governor Carreon located at No. 11 Rome St., Merville Park Subdivision, Parañaque City, Carreon whispered to him saying, ?Bumar, may ipapatrabaho akong dalawang tao at may budget na P600,000 at ini-negotiate ko pa na ito ay madagdagan pa ng P100,000 para maging P700,000.? Bumar clarified the word ?ipapatrabaho.? According to him two media members will be assassinated but Carreon did not mention their names because there was no budget yet and available pictures at the moment?
?On July 4, 2010, he transferred to former Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes as a close-in security and as he was about to report for work, Governor Reyes told him to report at Palawan Center in Makati City. When former Governor Reyes arrived, they talked about the nature of his work. Shortly, Governor Carreon also arrived with his two bodyguards and talked with former Governor Reyes at a distance away from Bumar.?
All of them left Palawan Center. Reyes and Bumar went to a mall in Makati to buy groceries. ?While there former Governor Reyes asked him if Governor Carreon mentioned about the two personalities to be assassinated in Palawan and he promptly answered him ?Yes? and Reyes said to him ?Kailangan mawala na kasi sakit na ng ulo pero i-schedule ng December 2010???
??In the middle part of December 2010, Reyes and ?Bumar? went to Resorts World Hotel near Naia Terminal 3 between 7 and 8 p.m. where Reyes would play at the casino. At the lobby of Marriott Hotel, former Governor Reyes mentioned again about the person to be liquidated, and at this juncture he (former Governor Reyes) gave him the amount of P150,000 in cash for mobilization of people and for the purchase of firearms and three pictures of a man and said to him ?Ito ang papatayin, his name is Dr. Gerry Ortega.??
Bumar contracted his townmate Armando Noel alias Salbakota and one Alias Pusa, later identified as Marlon Ricamata, to do the killing. On Jan. 18, 2011, Bumar bought three Cebu Pacific plane tickets for Noel, Ricamata and a third man, Dennis Aranas, bound for Puerto Princesa.
On the morning of Jan. 24, 2011, Bumar sent a text message to Armando Noel to inquire about their whereabouts ?and in his reply to Bumar, the two were still on stand-by near the Pet Shop Station of Dr. Gerry Ortega. Shortly after, he received a text message from Nonoy Regalado telling him ?Todas na,? then he sent a text message to former Governor Reyes informing the latter, ?OK na? and his reply was ?OK ingat.? However, minutes later, he received again a text message from Nonoy Regalado saying, ?Huli yong tirador,? followed by another text from Nonoy saying, ?Dalawa iyong nahuli.??
On No. 2: Still from the sworn statement of Bumar as quoted in the NBI report:
??Meanwhile, former Governor Reyes together with his daughter Jackie Reyes, went abroad? On Jan. 21, 2011, Bumar received a text message from former Governor Reyes saying, ?Sana pag-uwi ko ay tapos na ang problema.? In his reply to Governor Reyes, he said ?OK po? and he replied again to Bumar ?Ingat?.?
On No. 3: If you have been monitoring the newspapers, you must have seen the seemingly orchestrated columns defending Reyes. I will quote Mayor Hagedorn during our conversation at the Annabel?s Restaurant in Quezon City. When one of the accused was asked who was the mastermind in Ortega?s killing, that official replied: ?Aba sino pa kundi si Mayor Hagedorn.?