What Went Before: Gerry Ortega
MANILA, Philippines—On January 24, 2011, 47-year-old Palawan broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega was shot and killed by a lone assailant while shopping in a used-clothing store in Puerto Princesa City. He sustained bullet wounds in the head and body.
The alleged gunman, Marlon Recamata, was later caught with the help of bystanders but his alleged accomplices, Dennis Aranas and Armando Noel Loria, escaped.
Recamata later confessed to the killing and said his group was hired for the hit job in exchange for P150,000 by Rodolfo Edrad Jr., a former close-in security of former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes. Edrad also used to be an aide of former Marinduque Gov. Jose Antonio Carreon.
Police found that the .45-cal. pistol used in the shooting was registered to lawyer Romeo Seratubias, who served as provincial administrator when Reyes was governor.
Carreon and Reyes denied involvement in the killing. Seratubias confirmed that he had owned the gun but that he sold it to a certain Percival Lesias a day before the killing was planned in Pagbilao, Quezon province.
The police filed murder charges against Seratubias, Recamata, Aranas, Edrad and Loria. Two days later, Aranas was arrested by intelligence agents in Coron, Palawan.
Edrad surrendered in Quezon, saying he feared for his life. He later admitted to investigators that Reyes and Carreon were the ones who ordered the killing.
Loria surrendered to police from his hiding place in Sorsogon. The next day, Recamata pleaded guilty to the murder charge.
In February 2011, Ortega’s widow, Patria Gloria, filed a murder complaint against Reyes, his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and 10 others at the Department of Justice (DOJ), saying only Reyes had the motive to order her husband killed.
She said her husband had criticized Reyes in his daily radio program for the latter’s purported inability to stop the abuses and violations of environmental laws committed by mining companies in Palawan.
Patria said Reyes also blamed her husband for the former governor’s failed run for Congress.
The DOJ started the preliminary hearing of the Ortega case that same month. On June 2011, a DOJ panel led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog said the evidence and testimonies of witnesses presented by the prosecution were “insufficient to establish probable cause” against Reyes, Carreon, Seratubias, Mario Reyes and Reyes’ former aides Lesias and Arturo Regalado.
The DOJ, however, approved the filing of a criminal case against Edrad, Loria, Aranas and Arwin Arandia.
Citing strong evidence, the Ortega family filed a motion for reconsideration of the panel’s decision. In September 2011, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima created a new prosecution panel to reinvestigate the case. The new panel found probable cause to indict the Reyes brothers, which resulted in the issuance of arrest warrants against them in March 2012 by the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Indicted for murder
The Reyes brothers went into hiding to evade arrest. They fled to Vietnam six days after the DOJ indicted them for murder. But their lawyers went to the Court of Appeals (CA) to question De Lima’s creation of the second investigative panel.
In August 2012, President Aquino raised the reward for the capture of Reyes from P1.55 million to P2 million, and threw in another P2 million for the apprehension of Reyes’ brother.
In March 2013, the CA, granting Reyes’ petition, ruled that De Lima had acted with grave abuse of discretion in creating the second panel. The tribunal, however, left it to the Palawan RTC’s discretion to determine if the arrest warrant against Reyes should be quashed. Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives
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