Witness stricken off list of accusedBy Redempto Anda
Inquirer Southern Luzon
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The main witness against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes has been officially admitted into the government’s witness protection program and stricken off the list of persons facing arrest and trial for the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega, which Joel Reyes allegedly masterminded.
Rodolfo Edrad Jr., former bodyguard of the ex-governor, confessed to having directed the killing of Ortega in 2010 and pointed to Reyes as the brains in the murder.
In a phone interview, lawyer Alex Avisado, who represents the Ortega family, said he received the order on Tuesday dismissing Edrad as an accused in the case and declaring him as a state witness. It was issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 52 Judge Angelo Arizala.
Edrad surrendered to authorities following Ortega’s assassination on Jan. 24, 2010 and confessed that he was ordered by the ex-governor to kill Ortega, a regular critic of Reyes when Reyes was still Palawan governor.
The Reyes brothers had gone into hiding since Judge Arizala issued an arrest warrant for them in early May.
Avisado said Edrad would remain in the justice department’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) while waiting for his turn at the witness stand.
“He (Edrad) is now a free man and can now testify freely on the Ortega murder case and its mastermind, former Governor Joel T. Reyes,” Avisado said.
In a written confession he gave to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Edrad said he carried out the plot to kill Ortega by subcontracting it to a group of hired killers from his hometown of Pagbilao, Quezon.
The gunman, Marlon Recamata, was captured immediately after Ortega was gunned down inside a used clothing store in this city.
Charged with murder with the ex-governor were his brother, former associates and capitol employees and members of the Pagbilao hit team that carried out the murder plot.
Mario Reyes was charged based on pieces of evidence pointing to him as the source of most of the money that was handed to Edrad as payment for the killing of Ortega the night after Ortega was murdered.
Early this month, Palawan Vice Gov. Clara Reyes, wife of ex-governor Reyes, broke her silence about her husband’s case, saying her husband was being framed up by his political enemies.