Robredo informs Ortega daughter of manhunt for Reyes brothers
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has ordered a police manhunt for former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and declared them fugitives.
The Reyes brothers went into hiding after a Regional Trial Court in this city issued warrants for their arrests and seven other suspects for the murder here of environmentalist-broadcaster Dr. Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega in January 2011.
Michaella Ortega, the victim’s eldest daughter, said Friday she received a text message from Robredo informing her that he had ordered the manhunt for the Reyes brothers as early as Wednesday morning.
“I have ordered a manhunt (for) Governor Joel Reyes and Mayor Mario Reyes since yesterday early morning when we were informed that Reyes will not surrender, contrary to initial information that they might (surrender),” Robredo said in his message.
Robredo also directed Department of Interior and Local Governments officials in Coron, Palawan to “recall” the leave of absence filed by Mayor Reyes “as he is now a fugitive.”
The younger Reyes has not reported to work for almost two weeks already, according to Coron officials.
Robredo also told the Ortega family that he has formed several teams to tasked to conduct a manhunt separately but in coordination with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.
“We will use all resources available to secure the arrest of the Reyes brothers,” Robredo said in his text message.
Of those subjected to arrest warrants issued by Puerto Princesa RTC Branch 52 Judge Angelo Arizala, only Romeo Seratubias, a former provincial administrator during the Reyes’ term, has been arrested.
Aside from the Reyes brothers, also at large were Percival Lecias and Arturo Regalado, both aides of the former Palawan governor.
The four remaining suspects are all in protective custody of the Department of Justice. They are Rodolfo ‘Bumar’ Edrad Jr., self-confessed organizer of the assassination and former Reyes bodyguard and a state witness under the witness protection program; and Armando Noel Jr., Arwin Arandia and Dennis Aranas, the alleged hired killers from Pagbilao, Quezon now in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation
Seratubias, accompanied by his relatives, refused to enter a plea during his arraignment Friday afternoon, prompting Judge Arizala to enter for him a “not guilty” plea.
He was implicated in the case as the registered owner of a .45 cal. automatic pistol that was used by the confessed hired killer, Marlon Recamata, to kill Ortega.
Serratubias was arrested Tuesday and detained at the Palawan provincial jail. He was among Reyes’ co-accused who exonerated by the first DOJ prosecutors’ panel.
A second panel of prosecutors overturned the decision and ordered the filing of murder charges against Reyes and four other accused, including Seratubias.
Provincial Jail Warden Ramon Espina recommended a hospital arrest for Serratubias after the suspect reportedly complained of dizziness and chest pains. But this was turned down by Arizala following an on-the-spot examination conducted by Dr. Louie Ocampo of the Palawan provincial health office.
Meanwhile, Mayor Edward Hagedorn dismissed the insinuation made by Reyes in a recorded message played over local radio station dzIP on Thursday that he was behind efforts to persecute him.
Reyes, in his six-minute message, did not directly accuse Hagedorn but alluded to a “German” politician as being behind alleged efforts to destroy him by linking him to the crime.
“Nalulungkot ako sa nangyari, lalo na sa mga bata (nya). Nakialam ako dito hindi dahil gusto kong pahirapan si Governor Reyes. Ang naging role ko lang dito ay sa akin sumurender si Bomar. Kung yun ang naging dahilan at nalink sya sa kasong ito ay hindi ko ito pakana,” Hagedorntold the INQUIRER.
For their part, the Ortega family issued another statement Thursday urging Reyes to submit to authorities.
“It is curious that he continues to claim innocence while evading arrest. If he is as innocent as he says he is, he should surrender then because he would have nothing to hide. Of course, it has long since been apparent. What with the overwhelming evidence that indeed he has something that he wants to hide,” Michaella Ortega said in a text message to INQUIRER.
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