MANILA – The daughter of slain local broadcaster and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega, Mika Ortega, expressed dismay over the Court of Appeals' (CA) affirmation of an earlier ruling clearing former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes of murder charges.
Ortega said the ruling was based on a technicality that will further delay their pursuit of justice.
“Now we are just battling a technicality that’s keeping us back. It hurts that that is what’s happening, that the government despite its efforts is unable first to find where the brothers are, catch them, and make sure that the process of justice continues,” she told ANC’s “Prime Time.”
The ruling also did not sit well with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is considering elevating the matter to the Supreme Court.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines is also dismayed but said the latest decision does not clear Reyes of the charges since it was based on a mere technicality.
“Let us have a trial, let’s talk about it. Let’s see if they are guilty or not. But now we are being put back by a technicality that has nothing to do with evidence, nothing to do with the witnesses. It only talks whether or not what Secretary Leila de Lima did was procedurally correct. That’s very peripheral to the bigger question of who killed Doc Gerry Ortega,” said Ortega.
Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, are tagged as the masterminds behind the journalist’s murder. Both are reportedly out of the country.
Ortega said their family feels that the government could do more in finding the fugitives, adding that the last update they received was in 2012, when reports came out that the brothers are hiding in the US.
“We don’t feel like they are looking for them as much as we would want them to,” she said.
She also said that the recent graft charges filed against Reyes and 40 other ex-officials of Palawan in relation to the P2.57 billion Malampaya funds gave their family hope that justice will soon be served.
“The murder of my father is not just isolated to Gerry Ortega, it has been happening all over the country. It’s a sickness that we still have not solved, we haven’t taken solid steps to eliminate this culture of killing journalists in the country,” she said.
She also believes that the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams are “just the tip of the iceberg” of the culture of corruption in the country.
Reyes' counsel, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, meanwhile, said the CA's affirmation "once again proves that the truth cannot be hidden for long," adding that Ortega's murder was a crime that the former governor did not commit.