Ex-Palawan guv tagged in murder of radio commentator

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

MANILA -- State prosecutors recommended on Tuesday the filing of murder case against former Palawan governor Joel Reyes for his alleged involvement in the killing of radio commentator Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega early last year.

Signed by Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, the three-man panel found probable cause to file charges against the former governor, his brother Mario Reyes Jr., former Palawan provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias, and Reyes’ close-in security Arturo Regalado and Valentin “Percival” Lecias.

The panel, meanwhile, sustained an earlier finding not to include former Marinduque governor Jose Antonio Carrion for lack of evidence.

Earlier, the DOJ panel composed of Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog, Assistant State Prosecutors John Benedict Medina and Bryan Cacha found probable cause to charge with murder Rodolfo "Bumar" Edrad Jr., a former aide of Reyes and Carreon, Armando Noel, Dennis Aranas, and Arwin Arandia.

But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ordered a reinvestigation last September 7 in light of fresh evidence presented by the complainant and Ortega’s wife Patria against the former Palawan governor.

A new panel was also formed to handle the case, which include Assistant State Prosecutors Allan Mariano, Vimar Barcellano and Gerard Gaerlan.

In its findings, the panel said radio commentaries of Ortega on alleged irregularities in the bidding out and awarding of mining concessions in Palawan as well as alleged misuse of public funds coming from the Malampaya gas project, served as motive for the conspiracy to murder him.

A lone gunman shot Ortega in the head on January 24, 2011 while he was shopping in a used-clothes store in Puerto Princesa City.

“It noted that though they (Reyes brothers) denied any close associations with Edrad, such was weakened by their admission, that, indeed, Edrad went to Mario Reyes’s house in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa to receive money. Regardless of the amount, whether it was P500K, as claimed by Edrad, or merely P5K, as claimed by the respondent-brothers, the fact remains that respondent Joel Reyes handed him money and it was done at the sanctity of his house in the middle of the night,” the DOJ said in a statement.

Based on the scrutiny of the former governor's outgoing text messages, he sent 15 text messages to Edrad in December 2010, 27 text messages in January 2011 and 16 out of 84 text messages on the day Ortega was shot down.

“As shown by the mobile phone records submitted by complainant, respondent Joel Reyes’ close communication with respondent Edrad during this period would excite a reasonable mind that he is involved in the murder of the victim since respondent Edrad is the only link to the group of (other) respondents who admitted to have received considerable amount of money from respondent Edrad,” the resolution read.

Sought for comment, a former leader of the National Press Club asked the government to secure conviction for the perpetrators of the crime.

"Justice delayed is justice denied. We have been waiting this resolution for so long already. However, just like Ortega's case, masterminds of media killings were not yet placed behind bars," former NPC president Benny Antiporda said.

According to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), the 47-year-old anti-mining advocate was the 142nd media person killed since 1986 and the third under the Aquino administration.

Being a former close-in security guard of Reyes, Patria said Edrad’s testimony that he had been ordered to contact the other gunmen who killed Ortega, should be given weight as it established the chain of command in the execution of the plan to kill her husband.

Edrad, who is seeking to be enrolled in the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program, further claimed in his affidavit that he had been offered no less than P25 million in exchange for recanting his previous statements against the masterminds of the murder. (Virgil Lopez/JCV/Sunnex)

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