PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Netizens are typing away at their computers, pledging financial and other help as the manhunt for the former governor of Palawan spread to cyberspace.
In scores of postings that have sprouted on Facebook, supporters, friends and relatives of slain environmentalist-broadcaster Gerry Ortega offered to help locate former Gov. Joel T. Reyes, his brother and Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and two provincial aides, who have been linked to the murder.
Keeping herself earthbound, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Sunday joined calls for the Reyes brothers and the other suspects to surrender, reminding them that “flight is indicative of guilt.”
De Lima said the failure to arrest the suspects had become “an embarrassment.”
“How much per sheet ang flyer so the information could be disseminated? I am willing to sponsor 100 sheets,” Facebook user Yanay Rort said in a comment on a photo captioned “Wanted: Joel T. Reyes.”
The photo was first posted on March 28 by Ortega’s daughter Erika. As of Sunday, the photo had drawn 197 “like” reactions and 129 comments. The photo was shared by 102 other users.
Mika, eldest daughter of the late broadcaster, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that money pledges on Facebook alone would amount so far to over P10,000 to finance the production and distribution of “wanted” posters bearing the names and faces of the people named in the arrest warrants issued by a Palawan judge.
She said the Ortega family would consult with lawyers on how to respond to such suggestions and offers.
The embattled former governor was not without supporters on Facebook.
“I say just leave him alone … he’s a good guy and a good dad,” said a certain Glen T. Farrish.
‘In due time’
Reyes’ spokesperson, Rolando Bonoan, denied in a statement that Reyes was defying a court order by hiding from the authorities.
Bonoan, a member of the Palawan provincial board, claimed some media organizations had taken “out of context” a statement issued by Reyes while in hiding.
“He never said in his statement that he is going to defy the court order. What he said was that in due time he will face the charges filed against him,” Bonoan said.
Due process denied
He repeated the claim made by Reyes in his recorded message aired on Thursday by a local radio station that his political opponents were implicating him in the Ortega murder “for their own selfish motives and interests.”
Bonoan criticized the issuance of the warrant of arrest against Reyes as “a denial of due process.”
“The court should have thoroughly discussed and studied first the important issues presented in the motions before issuing a warrant of arrest,” he said.
Ortega’s wife, Patria, brushed aside Bonoan’s remarks.
“It is clear to us that Reyes has arrogantly placed himself above the law, hiding when he doesn’t like the decision made by a proper court. No amount of word play by Mr. Bonoan will change that fact,” Patria said.
De Lima, who once served as Reyes’ election lawyer, said hiding from the law would not help his legal defense.
“I reiterate Interior Secretary (Jesse) Robredo’s appeal for them to surrender and support his directive for a manhunt,” De Lima said. “They ought to be strongly reminded that flight is indicative of guilt. Innocence is proven in court and not outside of it.”
She said she had directed the National Bureau of Investigation to intensify its efforts to help the Philippine National Police locate and arrest the Reyeses.
As in any other criminal cases, De Lima said, the implementation of the arrest warrants against the Reyes brothers should be a “shared responsibility of all law-enforcement bodies.”
Like retired Army Major General Jovito Palparan, who is himself wanted for the alleged abduction of two university students, the Reyeses were apparently “trying to test the government’s resolve to get them to face the wheels of justice,” De Lima said.
“Continued failure to (arrest them) is becoming to be an embarrassment not only to the Filipino public, but the international community as well,” the justice secretary said.
But De Lima expressed optimism that the NBI and the PNP would eventually arrest the brothers.
“I’m confident that … the long arm of the law will eventually reach these fugitives,” she said. “I urge our law enforcers to double their efforts in tracking them down and forthwith arrest them.”
Reyes and his brother have not been seen by the authorities since the Regional Trial Court in Palawan last month ordered their arrest and the arrest of others accused in the killing of Ortega, who was gunned down inside a used-clothes store in Puerto Princesa City on Jan. 24, 2011.
Ortega had criticized Reyes on his radio programs for the latter’s supposed failure to stop the purported abuses and violations of environmental laws of several mining companies in the province.
Originally posted: 10:52 pm | Sunday, April 1st, 2012