PUERTO PRINCESA CITY?A lone gunman shot and killed outspoken radio commentator Gerardo Ortega while he was shopping in a used-clothes store Monday after his daily morning broadcast, police reported.
Ortega, anchor of the Radyo Mo Nationwide (RMN) local affiliate dwAR prime time talk show ?Ramatak,? was gunned down inside the store along the national highway in this city.
The 47-year-old broadcaster and veterinarian, called ?Doc Gerry? by friends and colleagues, suffered bullet wounds in the head and body, Insp. Rafael Roxas said.
The alleged gunman, Marlon Dicamata, 31, attempted to flee from the scene but was cornered at a nearby parking area by Ortega?s bodyguard and crewmen of a firetruck.
Police said Dicamata, who reportedly comes from Pagbilao town in Quezon province, had an accomplice, who remained at large.
In a statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Ortega was the 142nd journalist killed since the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution in the country, regarded as one of the most dangerous places for media people. He was the third journalist to be murdered under the Aquino administration.
National Bureau of Investigation agent Cedric Caabay declined to issue a statement during a break in the interrogation of the suspect but said investigators had good leads.
?There is good information, that?s all I can say,? Caabay said.
Campaign against mining
Ortega, a former provincial board member who once made an unsuccessful bid for governor, was a staunch critic of the current provincial administration and activities of mining companies in Palawan, speaking out often against corruption in his 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. program.
He had been moving around with a bodyguard since late last year when he kept receiving death threats through text messages, said Aries Abuque, a dwAR colleague.
Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn said Ortega, who was also the project director of ABS-CBN?s Bayan Ni Juan project in Puerto Princesa, was set to travel to Manila on Tuesday to meet with him.
They were to discuss with other anti-mining advocates various activities under the Global Legal Action for Climate Change (GLACC), which Hagedorn heads.
?We were just discussing this campaign plan together with his boss, Gina Lopez,? Hagedorn said in a phone interview with the Inquirer from Manila.
The mayor vowed to provide all-out support to the police and other investigating agencies to pin down the mastermind of Ortega?s killing.
?We will not allow this to remain unsolved for any length of time. We will bring justice to the family,? Hagedorn said.
A police source said investigators were trying to verify reports that the suspect had been contracted for the hit job for P100,000 with a down payment of P10,000.
Investigators have also been able to track down the registry of the .45-cal. automatic that was used in the killing.
The Inquirer also learned from an investigator that the suspect had checked in at a local hotel as early as Dec. 24.
Palawan Gov. Abraham Kahlil Mitra, in a statement, denounced Ortega?s killing and ordered the provincial police office to ?immediately resolve the killing.?
Mitra challenged Supt. Reynaldo Jagmis, the new provincial police director, ?to solve this crime right away together with other reported incidents like the firing of guns at the house of Rizal Mayor Nicolas Montaño and the holdup incident in Balabac a few days ago.?
The NUJP chapter in Palawan and the Palawan Press Club have condemned the slaying, demanding that the investigation be ?transparent and speedy.?
?Ortega?s killing may have a direct connection with his work as a media practitioner and his enemies lurk in the many corners of the government bureaucracy which he had criticized in his radio programs. We ask the national government to ensure that the investigation of his murder will not be hindered by outside influences,? the NUJP chapter said.
?Doc Gerry was more than a radio commentator. He was also a wildlife conservationist, a public servant, an anti-graft crusader?roles which he played with guts, grit and gravitas,? Rep. Antonio Alvarez of Northern Palawan said in a statement.
?He loved Palawan so much that he was the last frontier?s first defender, ready to rise up when it is threatened by those who want to rob it of its natural riches or its share from national wealth,? Alvarez added.
Jofelle Tesorio, editor at the Asian News Network, said in the NUJP website that ?Doc Gerry was a good friend, a good person, a good family man, and a good Palaweño. He wanted nothing but the best for Palawan. He could have moved and worked abroad but he chose to serve Palawan.?