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IFJ demands swift justice for murder of journalist as killer explains motive

(IFJ/IFEX) - January 27, 2011 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) calls for a swift and thorough prosecution of those responsible for the murder of radio anchor Gerardo Ortega in the Philippines on January 24, after strong leads emerged in the case.

Gunman Marlon de Camata (aka Marvin Alcaraz) was arrested at the scene in the country's far-western island province of Palawan. He reportedly told police that he and an accomplice had been promised 150,000 pesos (about 3370 USD) to murder the broadcaster "to stop his criticism of unnamed powerful people", according to news reports on January 26.

Ortega, a prominent news anchor and commentator with dwAR, was shot in the head at about 10am as he was shopping in the San Pedro district of Puerto Princesa City, the provincial capital.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), an IFJ affiliate, reported that the killing may be related to Ortega's commentary on a gas company's operations in the province.

Police reportedly said the men who paid the assailants may have been working on behalf of mining interests. These men, whose names have been withheld, reportedly said their boss wanted to silence Ortega. Superintendent Roland Amurao said police suspected Ortega's efforts to expose illegal mining led to his death, according to news reports.

Ortega, a former gubernatorial candidate, was a vocal critic of the province's governor and had publicly campaigned against mining operations in Palawan. He also headed an ecotourism project in the province supported by the charitable arm of broadcaster ABS-CBN.

Police are searching for an accomplice, identified as Dennis Aranas in a report by radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate on January 25, reports said.

Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn has ordered police to protect the families of Ortega and de Camata.

"The strong leads in this case should lead to the prompt prosecution not only of those who gunned down Ortega, but those who allegedly ordered and paid for the murder," IFJ Asia-Pacific Director Jacqueline Park said.

In a statement fully endorsed by the IFJ, the NUJP said, "The National Union of Journalist of the Philippines demands that President Aquino not only ensure justice for the killing of Palawan radio commentator and environmental activist Dr Gerardo Ortega, the second journalist murdered under his watch, but for all the 141 media murders that preceded this crime since 1986, including the Ampatuan Massacre.

"We challenge President Aquino to acknowledge that the State should be accountable, not only for all media murders, but for all extrajudicial killings and human rights violations committed by its agents, or to admit that the State and his administration cannot or will not fulfil its most basic duty, to protect its citizenry."

Click here to read the full NUJP statement

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