A documentary on the murder of Doc Gerry Ortega, produced by the PCIJ with support from the Open Society Institute (OSI)
EXACTLY ONE YEAR ago today (January 24), a gunman shot dead Palawan environmentalist and broadcast journalist Doc Gerry Ortega along Puerto Princesa’s busy highway. Ortega was one of Palawan’s most popular radio commentators, anchoring the radio program “Ramatak” on DWAR Radio Mindanao Network.
The alleged gunman, Marlon Recamata, was immediately caught by passing firemen and charged with murder. Recamata was also caught on the local government’s CCTV cameras casing the scene of the crime, and fleeing immediately after Ortega’s murder.
More importantly, Recamata pleaded guilty to the charge of murder, and identified his other co-conspirators, including former marine soldier Rodolfo Edrad, who allegedly coordinated the whole operation. In turn, Edrad turned state witness, and identified former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and Marinduque Governor Jose Carreon as the masterminds.
Interestingly, the gun was traced to Romeo Serratubias, who had served as provincial administrator for Reyes. Serratubias claimed he had sold the gun to another person. Serratubias only presented a handwritten note as evidence of the sale of the gun.
Despite the trail of evidence and testimonies, the case against the alleged masterminds has barely moved foward.
“We’ve always known that justice here is slow,” said Ortega’s daughter Mika on the first anniversary of her father’s murder. “But this is unbelievably slow. It has been an entire year. This is already ridiculous.”
A special panel of prosecutors had removed the names of Governors Reyes and Carreon from the original charge sheet in June last year, claiming there was insufficient evidence. After an outcry and an appeal from the Ortega family, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima formed another special panel of prosecutors to study the case.
The new panel has reportedly submitted its recommendations to De Lima earlier this month.
“All that is needed is probable cause,” Mika Ortega said. “There is probable cause. Kinakabahan kami kasi hindi namin alam ang laman ng recommendation.”
Edrad also appeared before the Palawan Regional Trial Court today to testify during the murder trial of Recamata. It was the first time that Edrad appeared in court to testify to his involvement in the murder.
Defense counsels objected to the presentation of Edrad as a witness, but the judge allowed Edrad to affirm the veracity of the affidavits he had earlier signed identifying all those allegedly involved in the conspiracy, from Reyes and Carreon to Recamata.
Ortega said Edrad also told the court that his life was in constant danger, especially after agreeing to turn state witness against the alleged masterminds in the case.
As for the Ortega family, family members gathered in Aborlan to commemorate the first death anniversary of Gerry Ortega. The family and close friends are also scheduled to hold a candlelight vigil tonight in memory of the slain broadcaster.— PCIJ