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First media killing masterminds to be convicted?

12:04 AM September 28, 2015

NEWS OF the arrest of the Reyes brothers, Joel and Mario, in Thailand, is most welcome but it raises much concern as well.

Welcome in that, after four years and a half, the accused masterminds of the murder of our colleague, Gerry Ortega, have at last been collared and deported to the Philippines to face justice.

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Concern, because we all remember the circumstances in which they slipped out of the country in March 2012—just before warrants for their arrest were issued—apparently with false travel papers and help from crooked immigration officials, following what can only be assumed was a tip-off from even more crooked officials higher up in government about their impending arrest.

We will set aside the questions raised by the claim of their lawyer that the Reyes brothers were not arrested and that they surrendered to Thai authorities. It is the possibility that they may seek election next year which bothers us more.

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What does seem obvious at this point is that, for all its claims that it always wanted the two in jail, this administration has done little, if anything, to bring this about.

We are sorry to prick his bubble again, but the truth is President Aquino is way off base for saying, as quoted by Palace mouthpiece Edwin Lacierda, that the capture of the brothers “proves the resolve of the government to go after the fugitives.”

Given the administration’s continued inaction, even apathy, toward other cases of media killings and human rights abuses, we share the wariness of the Ortega family: The fact is, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has yet to resolve the petition for review that the family filed on the 2011 findings of the original panel of prosecutors, which ludicrously cleared the Reyes brothers of murder, notwithstanding the confessions of members of the team that carried out the hit.

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It’s not yet too late for the administration to set aside its shameless credit-grabbing rhetoric and to do something concrete to help the family achieve justice. For starters, De Lima can and should act on the long-pending Petition for Review to ensure that the ongoing trial in the Palawan Regional Trial Court will continue. We’ve had enough of the Aquino administration according special treatment to favored and influential individuals facing criminal charges. The Reyes brothers in the last four years brazenly trampled on our legal system and exploited the weaknesses and corruptibility of our enforcement system, after bribing their way out of the country and eluding arrest in a touristy hideaway until the Thai authorities had to do the work for us.

If anything, it has been the courage and the unwavering resolve of the Ortega family, and of those who stood by them in demanding justice, which have kept the flame burning and will, hopefully, finally lead to the first conviction of a mastermind behind the killing of a Filipino journalist. And then, perhaps, justice will become more than an elusive dream for all the families of our 169 other murdered colleagues.

—ROWENA PARAAN,

chair, National Union of Journalists

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of the Philippines, [email protected]

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