MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - An environmental advocate, media practitioner and program manager of the Philippine Ecotourism Palawan of the ABS-CBN Foundation was shot dead in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Monday morning.
Dr. Gerardo "Gerry" Ortega, a veterinarian and host of a radio program on DWAR Palawan was killed by a gunman in San Pedro Village, Puerto Princesa City.
Witnesses said at around 10 a.m. today, as Ortega got down from his car to buy clothes from an "ukay ukay" vendor, they they heard two gunshots. Crime scene operatives later confirmed that Ortega was killed by a bullet to the head.
Puerto Princesa police arrested a suspect identified as Marvin Alcaraz, who is believed to be a resident of Taguig City Metro Manila.
Alcaraz claimed he was just trying to rob Ortega. Alcaraz is now under the custody of the Puerto Princesa PNP. Police refused to comment on the continuing investigation.
Ortega's eldest daughter, Mika, confirmed that her father has been receiving death threats since his program went back on air in 2009.
"We already got him a bodyguard kasi mas marami na yun threats lalo na before the May elections. I thought nga na nawala na. I never thought people will actually do this. In his fight for what is right he made a lot of enemies," Mika said.
In an interview with ABS CBN Puerto Princesa, Gerry's brother Arnel also confirmed the recent death threats his brother often received.
Ortega was a known anti-mining activist in Palawan. He was also a respected community organizer whose contribution to sustainable tourism in Palawan had earned him the respect of other pro-environment advocates.
Ortega has worked closely with the ABS CBN Foundation in several projects in the island. ABS-CBN Foundation Managing Director Gina Lopez is one of the last persons Gerry Ortega talked to on his cellphone before he was shot.
"We were talking about our anti-mining project to get 10 million signatures, and then this. He had a great sense of humor, who would have known this would happen. They are saying it was a robbery. How can that be he does not look like that...he goes to the ukay-ukay in tsinelas. And why kill him if robbery talaga ang motive," Lopez said.
Lopez vowed to continue their projects for the environment to fulfill Ortega's dreams even if he is already gone.
142nd journalist killed
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines immediately condemned the attack.
"We vehemently condemn, in strongest terms possible, the killing of a colleague in Palawan, Dr. Gerardo Ortega, a commentator of RMN Palawan and staunch critic of the current governor and of mining operations in the island province. May justice be served without fear or favor. We call on government to resolve all media killings and put an end to the culture of impunity in the country," the NUJP said in its statement.
Puerto Princesa mayor Edward Hagedorn also condemned the killing of Ortega and said he will meet with mediamen tomorrow.
Ortega is the 142nd journalist killed in the Philippines since 1986 and the 5th mediaman killed under the rule of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III.
Atty Harry Roque of the Center for International Law said Ortega's murder highlights "the continuing failure of government to stem the tide of impunity in the country, one which has targeted journalists in unprecedented numbers."