Reyes brothers in Ortega killing arrested in Thailand
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines — Former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes and his brother Mario were arrested by the police in Phuket, Thailand, on Sunday, according to a police source.
The source, an official of Task Force Usig, the tracker group assigned to catch big fugitives, said the Reyes brothers had long been wanted for the slay of Palawan environmentalist and journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega. The task force was in close coordination with the Thai police who are holding the brothers for eventual deportation, the source added.
Another source said the PNP’s Task Force Tugis went to Thailand last year to look for the Reyes brothers.
The arrest of the Reyes brothers was relayed to the PNP by the Thailand embassy, the police source said.
But a ranking police official privy to the operation told INQUIRER.net that Mario and Joel were arrested and held by immigration authorities for overstaying in Thailand.
In 2012, President Aquino offered a P2 million reward for the arrest of the “Big Five” including the Reyes brothers, Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, Globe Asiatique developer Delfin Lee and former Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr.
Four of the five high-profile fugitives have been arrested except for Ecleo.
The information was confirmed by the victim’s wife, Patty Ortega, who told the Inquirer Monday that she had been officially advised by authorities of the arrest. She added however they have no information on the circumstances behind the arrest.
For her part, Ortega’s daughter, Mica, told a radio interview that the family was initially “stunned” and could not believe the news.
Mica added that they felt relief that justice could continue with the trial of the alleged masterminds.
Joel and his brother Mario, then the mayor of the town of Coron in Palawan, fled the country sometime in March 2012 several months after they were indicted by the Department of Justice in the Ortega murder and an arrest warrant was issued against them by the Palawan Regional Trial Court.
Ortega, a hard-hitting broadcaster and a known environmental crusader in Palawan, was shot dead by a lone assassin along the downtown area of this city on Jan. 24, 2011. The assassin, Marlon Recamata, was nabbed after a brief chase and later confessed to the crime at the Puerto Princesa police.
Recamata’s arrest led to the arrest of several other suspects who pointed to the Reyes brothers as the masterminds in the slaying.
The Reyes brothers have been seeking to quash their arrest warrant before the Supreme Court and had managed to win an appeal in the Court of Appeals on their motion questioning the validity of the creation of a DOJ prosecutors’ panel that indicted them for murder.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.