DoJ to probe bribe try on Ortega witness
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Sunday said she would investigate the claims of attempted bribery made by a suspect-turned-state witness in the murder of Palawan broadcaster Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega.
Rodolfo Edrad Jr., alias Junjun Bumar, who had confessed to hiring the gunmen who killed Ortega, filed a supplemental affidavit at the Department of Justice on Friday stating that someone had offered him P25 million to recant his statements against those whom he tagged as masterminds in the killing.
“I will ask Undersecretary Francisco Baraan in his capacity as undersecretary in charge of the DoJ task force on political and media killings to take appropriate action. Either direct a separate probe or assign it to a different prosecutor to handle,” De Lima said in a text message.
She said this was all she could do for now since she had inhibited herself from the Ortega case, adding, “As you know, I’m hands-off in this case due to delicadeza on account of my previous professional relationship with [former Palawan] Gov. Joel Reyes.”
But De Lima said she would monitor the case, being a high profile case, so that it would be expeditiously and justly disposed of.
Former security aide
Edrad, who had pointed to Reyes as one of those allegedly behind the killing of Ortega, did not provide any details on the alleged bribery attempt. He said he used to be the former governor’s security aide.
“I have refused and will continue to refuse any bribe offered to me. The truth cannot be bought. I will not and will never recant. If I ever do, for reasons of the safety of my family and loved ones, this early I would already request the honorable investigating panel or the honorable court to receive any recantation with extreme caution as it would never be a product of my free will,” Edrad said in his supplemental affidavit.
Edrad also said one of the suspects’ lawyers called him up “to offer all the resources of his client in exchange for ensuring that I keep quiet about the murder.”
Meanwhile, Ferdinand Topacio, Reyes’ lawyer, asked De Lima to look into the allegation of Percivial Lecias, one of the suspects, that officials of the National Bureau of Investigation in Palawan forced him to admit involvement in Ortega’s murder.
Lecias had written Commission on Human Rights chief Loretta Ann Rosales to complain about his being illegally detained for several days and being interrogated and forced to sign statements implicating other suspects in the absence of a lawyer.
Made to admit part
Named respondents in the case were NBI-Palawan Director Rosauro Bautista, special investigator Cedric Caabay and agents Roger Susosco and Dundee Santos.
In his complaint, Lecias said Caabay had suggested how he should answer the questions and was repeatedly told to admit he was part of the group that conspired to kill Ortega.
According to the suspect, the NBI officials threatened and intimidated him into executing certain statements against his will.
Lecias served as a photographer of Reyes’ wife, current Palawan Vice Gov. Clara Reyes. His original affidavit to Caabay said he (Lecias) was the one who had brought the gun used in the killing from former provincial administrator Romeo Serratubias to Nonoy Regalado, another Reyes aide.
Ortega was gunned down on Jan. 24 in front of a used clothing store in Puerto Princesa City.
Although the motive for the killing has yet to be established, Ortega’s family alleged that the victim was killed because of his criticism of Reyes and the governor’s political allies.
Aside from Reyes, Serratubias, Regalado and Lecias, other respondents in the murder complaint are Reyes’ brother Mario, mayor of Coron town; former Marinduque Gov. Jose Carreon; Marlon Ricamata; Dennis Aranas; Arturo Regalado; Armando Noel and others unknown.
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