Puerto Princesa City—City Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn on Friday filed a libel case against former Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes and staffers of a Manila-based tabloid in connection with the unsolved murder of local journalist and environmental activist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
Hagedorn said Reyes, who had been sued by Ortega’s family for allegedly masterminding Ortega’s murder on Jan. 24, had accused him instead of being responsible for the crime in a TV interview.
Hagedorn cited in his complaint filed before Puerto Princesa City Prosecutor Alberto Trinidad a remark that Reyes made during an interview with GMA 7’s Arnold Clavio sometime after the Ortega killing.
In that interview, Reyes said the testimony made by his former bodyguard, who has confessed to organizing the operation to kill Ortega, was part of a “demolition job” against him by Hagedorn.
“Who else could be behind this but Mayor Ed Hagedorn,” Hagedorn quoted Reyes as saying.
Also named in the complaint were three staffers of the tabloid X-Files for an article that allegedly implicated Hagedorn in the Ortega murder.
Hagedorn and Reyes are political rivals. Reyes lost to an ally of Hagedorn in the last local elections for the congressional seat in southern Palawan.
Reyes was linked to the Ortega murder by his former bodyguard, Rodolfo Edrad Jr., who surrendered to Hagedorn while he was being hunted down by law enforcers. Edrad later confessed that it was Reyes who allegedly ordered and funded the murder of Ortega.
Findings made by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) led to the filing of cases against Reyes, former Marinduque Gov. Antonio Carreon, Coron Mayor Marjo Reyes (brother of the former governor), former Palawan Provincial Administrator Romeo Seratubias, who was the registered owner of the murder weapon, and several others.
A Department of Justice panel, however, dismissed the case against Reyes and indicted only Edrad and a group of men hired from Pagbilao, Quezon, including the gunman who had been captured after the shooting of Ortega.
Hagedorn challenged Reyes to face him in court, telling reporters, “I’m fed up with all the insinuations that I am the mastermind and not Reyes.”
Hagedorn said he might file a separate case against other columnists who, he said, “were trying to portray me as the mastermind and were obviously trying to defend Reyes.”