Journalist’s widow seeks probe of Malampaya funds
MANILA, Philippines—The family of slain Palawan broadcaster Dr. Gerardo Ortega is urging the Senate to open an inquiry into the alleged misuse of the Malampaya funds that Ortega had exposed.
Ortega’s widow Patria, daughter Michaella and son Joaquin on Tuesday biked from the Quirino Grandstand to the Department of Justice and then to the Senate to personally deliver a letter calling for the inquiry to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Ortega had been criticizing the alleged misuse of the funds in his radio program in Puerto Princesa. He had called on the national government to audit the some P3.1 billion that the Palawan provincial government took in as its share from the Malampaya natural gas project.
“Unless this is investigated, his death will go to waste,” Ortega’s widow told reporters shortly after arriving in the Senate with activist Fr. Robert Reyes and retired military officer Danilo Lim who had joined the Ortega family’s run to the Senate.
Enrile, who received the Ortega family in his office, said he has yet to read the letter before deciding whether to call for an inquiry.
“We can look into what happened to the funds,” he later told the reporters.
Enrile assured the Ortegas that he would also ask Justice Secretary Leila de Lima for an update on the case during her confirmation hearings before the congressional Commission on Appointments.
He also told them that they could secure a copy of the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the Malampaya funds from the new COA chair, Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan.
“That’s a public document. That’s not a security document,” he said.
Ortega, a veterinarian, environmentalist and program manager of the Philippine Ecotourism Palawan of the ABS-CBN Foundation, was shot and killed on Jan. 24 in San Pedro Village, Puerto Princesa.
Patria recalled that her husband had often taken to task the Palawan provincial officials—the former governor Joel T. Reyes, incumbent Gov. Abraham Mitra and former vice governor Dave Ponce de Leon—over the alleged irregularities in the disbursement of the P3.1-billion and for them to account for the funds.
The widow said P3.1 billion out of the total P90-billion realized from the Malampaya project went to the provincial government. The local COA auditor has so far been able to account for only P520 million.
In her letter to Enrile, Ortega’s daughter Michaella lamented that her late father’s “unwavering and uncompromising fight against corruption” was being downplayed in the investigation of his killing.
“One of the last things he discussed with me was the need to increase the noise over the Malampaya funds misuse to prevent the release of new Malampaya funds until the previous releases are properly accounted for and safety measures are in place to ensure that Palaweños will benefit from these,” she said.
This is why her family was asking the Senate to conduct an investigation into how the Malampaya funds released to the Palawan government were utilized, she said.
Michaella said she has written a separate letter to Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, urging the senator to initiate an inquiry.
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