NUJP laments technicality clearing governor in Ortega slay
MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Tuesday expressed disappointment with the Court of Appeals decision to clear former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes in the killing of a radio broadcaster Gerry Ortega based on “a mere technicality.”
“It would, indeed, be a travesty of justice, not just for…Ortega but for all our colleagues who have been murdered for their work to expose corruption, to let those responsible for their deaths go scot free,” NUJP said in a statement.
The CA affirmed its earlier decision clearing Reyes because of Justice Secretary De Lima’s “grave abuse of discretion” by creating a second panel of investigators amid the first panel recommending the dismissal of the murder case.
The group said they hoped justice will be served, especially with the continuing revelations on the abuse of public funds, including the Malampaya Natural Gas Project which was part of Ortega’s previous exposé against Reyes.
“At the same time, we call on Justice De Lima to ensure that all legal proceedings connected with the prosecution of those responsible for murdering Gerry Ortega are airtight. We cannot allow justice to slip away on technicalities,” NUJP said.
Broadcaster and environmentalist Ortega was shot dead by a lone gunman on January 24, 2011 while at a used-clothing store in Puerto Princesa. The suspect Marlon Recamata confessed that a former close-in of Reyes had hired him to kill Ortega.
While Ortega’s case has received much attention and support from media and human rights groups, the first panel of prosecutors dismissed on June 8, 2011 the complaint against Reyes for insufficiency of evidence.
However, three months later, De Lima issued Department Order 710 creating a new panel to re-investigate the complaint. The panel filed a case before the Palawan Regional Trial Court which then ordered the arrest of Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes.
Last year, the government set the reward money for Reyes’ capture at P2 million. However, in March 2013, the CA granted Reyes’ petition against De Lima’s supposed grave abuse of discretion.
Both the Ortega family and the De Lima said they will elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
Data from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists showed that 73 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1992. An overwhelming majority of the victims covered politics (62 percent), corruption (41 percent) and crime (23 percent). Suspects in the killings were mostly government officials (69 percent), followed by criminal groups (14 percent).
Ortega was known for openly criticizing mining projects and local officials accused of corruption in his radio talk show.
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