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Murder complaint against two former governors, four others dismissed

(CMFR/IFEX) - 17 June 2011 - A panel of public prosecutors found probable cause to file murder charges against the person who allegedly hired the gunman and the gunman's accomplices in the killing of Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR broadcaster Gerardo "Gerry" Ortega.

However, the panel dismissed the complaint against former Palawan Gov. Mario Joel Reyes, former Marinduque Gov. Jose Carrion, Coron, Palawan Mayor Mario Reyes Jr., former Palawan provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias, Arturo Regalado, and Valentin Lecias for "insufficiency of evidence." Widow Patria Gloria Ortega had filed on 14 February 2011 a five-page supplemental complaint-affidavit naming Reyes as the mastermind in the killing of her husband.

In an 8 June resolution, the panel of prosecutors led by Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Edwin Dayog found the evidence "insufficient to establish probable cause against Gov. Reyes, Gov. Carrion, Mayor Reyes, Atty. Seratubias, Regalado, and Lecias." Assistant State Prosecutor Bryan Jacinto Cacha and Prosecution Attorney John Benedict Medina also signed the resolution.

The panel said there was "no evidence sufficient to warrant indictment" of the six suspects. The prosecutors said the only evidence on record against Carrion and the two Reyeses was the extra-judicial confession of Rodolfo Edrad Jr. who alleged that he was a former security man of both Carrion and Gov. Reyes and that he was ordered to form a team to kill Ortega.

"These uncorroborated statements of Edrad in his extra-judicial confession cannot support Gov. Carrion's indictment for murder," the resolution read, adding that "Edrad's extra-judicial confession is not admissible against Gov. Carrion" as there is no other evidence that can corroborate Edrad's claims. The panel added that "the same applies to Gov. Reyes and Mayor Reyes."

The resolution quoted Edrad's statement where he claimed that in June 2010 Carrion told him "I want work done on two people, with a budget of P600,000 (approximately US$13,785)." Edrad claimed Carrion said the targets were two journalists in Palawan.

Edrad also claimed that Gov. Reyes gave him money in December 2010 to hire gunmen and buy a gun to be used to kill Ortega. Edrad said the governor also handed him three photographs of Ortega.

The panel also said the evidence against former provincial administrator Seratubias was not enough to prove he was "criminally involved in the killing of Doc Gerry." Seratubias admitted formerly owning the firearm used in shooting Ortega but said he sold it to Regalado prior to the murder.

The evidence against Regalado and Lecias, who allegedly facilitated the acquisition of the gun, also failed to prove their knowledge of the murder plot. The resolution, explaining the insufficiency of evidence against Regalado, said: "There is no [evidence] showing that Regalado was aware that the gun he procured from Atty. Seratubias and he handed over to (Armando) Noel on Edrad's request would be used to kill Doc Gerry."

Meanwhile, the panel of prosecutors recommended the filing of murder charges against Edrad, Armando Noel, Dennis Aranas and Arwin Arandia. The panel said Marlon Recamata, the alleged gunman in the killing of Ortega, committed the crime "pursuant to an agreement with Edrad, Noel and Aranas and in consideration of P150,000 (approximately US$3,446) promised by Edrad."

The murder case against Recamata and four John Does was filed before the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa City on 25 January 2011, a day after the killing of Ortega.

Ortega was shot dead on 24 January inside a thrift store near his family's veterinary clinic in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. He was the first journalist killed in the Philippines in the line of duty in 2011, and the second under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

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