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Philippines court convicts broadcaster's killer, masterminds still at large

The Puerto Princesa City court convicted of murder the killer of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerardo "Gerry" Ortega last 7 May 2013.

Branch 52 Judge Angelo Arizala of the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa City sentenced confessed gunman Marlon Recamata to a penalty of reclusion perpetua. Recamata will serve his sentence at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm.

Under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, a person sentenced with reclusion perpetua faces a maximum of 40 years in prison.

A report in Manila's Philippine Daily Inquirer said that the gunman must also pay Ortega's family a total of Php132,103.50 (approximately USD3,241) in damages.

On 24 January 2011, Recamata shot Ortega inside a thrift store in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. Police immediately apprehended Recamata, who confessed to being promised a fee of Php150,000 (approximately USD 3,500) to kill the broadcaster.

In an affidavit dated 24 January 2011, Recamata said that he and Dennis Aranas were recruited through Armando Noel by a certain Rodolfo "Bomar" Edrad Jr. Edrad, allegedly a security escort of former Marinduque governor Jose Antonio Carrion, later gave himself up, and identified former Palawan governor Jose Reyes and Coron mayor Marjo Reyes as the masterminds behind Ortega's murder.

A murder case has been filed against the Reyeses, Aranas, Noel, former provincial administrator and lawyer Romeo Seratubias (owner of the gun used by Recamata), Percival Lecias (allegedly the photographer of Joel Reyes' wife who bought the gun from Seratubias) and Arturo Regalado (an aide of Joel Reyes). But only Seratubias and Regalado are currently on trial.

Lecias died of natural causes, while Aranas was found dead in his detention cell in a Quezon province jail last February 2013. The Reyeses remain at large as their separate petitions for certiorari asking for the nullification of their reinstatement as accused in the Ortega murder are still pending.

In a press statement dated 8 May 2013, the daughter of Gerry Ortega said that her family welcomes the decision but reminded the public that the alleged masterminds are still at large.

"While Recamata's conviction is a step in the right direction, we lament the fact that the Reyes brothers continue to evade justice," Michaella Ortega said.

Michaella added that, "We implore our authorities - who recently claimed that the brothers may very well be in the country - to please work harder in tracking the Reyes brothers."

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