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Four years after Filipino broadcaster's murder, alleged masterminds arrested in Thailand

Ex-municipal mayor, Mario Reyes, left, and former Gov. Joel Reyes of Palawan attend a press conference at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, Thailand, 21 September 2015
Ex-municipal mayor, Mario Reyes, left, and former Gov. Joel Reyes of Palawan attend a press conference at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok, Thailand, 21 September 2015

AP Photo

This statement was originally published on on 21 September 2015.

The two alleged masterminds in the killing of Palawan broadcaster Gerardo "Gerry" Ortega in 2011 were arrested in Thailand Sunday, 20 September 2015.

Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Coron mayor Mario Reyes were arrested for overstaying in Thailand and have been detained at the Thai immigration office for deportation. The Reyes brothers are the primary suspects in the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega in Puerto Princesa, Palawan province last 24 January 2011.

Michaella Ortega, daughter of the slain journalist, confirmed the arrest to CMFR. She said that the information came from the Crimnal Investigation and Detection Group of Task Force Tugis. Task Force Tugis has been pursuing the Reyes brothers since 2012. The task force, according to her, is coordinating with Thailand officials for the deportation of the Reyeses.

The Reyes brothers fled the country following the issuance of an arrest warrant by the Palawan Regional Trial court against them in 2012. In the same year, President Benigno Aquino III offered a PHP 2 million reward for their arrest.

Michaella Ortega told CMFR that upon the Reyes brothers' deportation, [the journalist's family hopes] the suspects will be arraigned in a proper court. The family has remained hopeful that they will get justice despite the passing of four years since the murder.

Gerry Ortega, a broadcaster for Radio Mindanao Network (RMN) dwAR, was in a Puerto Princesa store when he was gunned down in 2011.

Ortega was a known critic of the local government and of mining companies in Palawan. An environmental activist, Ortega accused the allegedly unrestrained mining activities in the province of destroying the environment. He supported a petition filed before the Supreme Court in behalf of Palawenos to invalidate a revenue sharing agreement on the Malampaya natural gas project in Palawan between the local and national governments.

Later, the police apprehended and arrested a Marlon Recamata who confessed to shooting Ortega.

Recamata's arrest led to the arrest of other suspects who identified the Reyes brothers as the masterminds in Ortega's killing. Recamata was convicted and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua on 7 May 2013.

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

There have been 149 cases of journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986. Only 15 out of the cases of have been partly resolved with the conviction of the gunmen. No mastermind has so far been prosecuted, with the exception of the alleged principals in the November 23, 2010 Ampatuan (Maguindanao) Massacre, whose trial is ongoing.

What other IFEX members are saying
  • CPJ welcomes arrests in 2011 murder of Philippine journalist

    It was not immediately clear if the Reyeses will stand trial if they are returned to the Philippines. The brothers have challenged the legality of the charges and sought to quash their arrest warrants before the Supreme Court, according to news reports.

  • Masterminds in 2011 Philippine journalist murder arrested

    "While it remains unclear what will happen upon the Reyes' brothers return to the Philippines, we demand swift and decisive action. In the many cases where journalists have been murdered, the Department of Justice and the Philippines Government must ensure that not only the gunman is brought to justice, but also the masterminds who ordered and paid for the killing..."

  • Toward resolving the Ortega case

    Statement of the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists

Case history

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