Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes speaks to reporters in a press conference in Manila, February 10, 2011. (ABS-CBN News)
MANILA, Philippines - Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes denied accusations that he is behind the murder of radio commentator and anti-mining advocate Gerry Ortega last month.
In a press conference on Thursday, Reyes said he is "outraged at the way my name has been deliberately dragged into the assassination of Dr. Gerry Ortega last January 24."
"I firmly believe and categorically deny any involvement in this crime and remain confident that the true reason for this false accusation will soon be bared," he said.
Reyes said he returned to the country to defend himself from the allegations he is the mastermind behind the killing of Ortega.
He also questioned the alleged meddling of his former political opponent, Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, in the case.
"In my 23 years of continued public service in the province of Palawan, I have never been linked to any form of violence and intimidation. Ironically, it is the very same individual who has turned this issue into political payback that has been such a reputation in our province. It is clear from the way the events are unfolding that this is a well-funded and well-orchestrated operation," he said.
He said his camp is undertaking its own investigation into Ortega's killing.
According to Reyes' lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, his client is being tried by publicity.
Topacio pointed out that the official investigation is still in the initial stage, so it cannot be said that the case is solved.
Reyes also expressed his condolences to the Ortega family.
"It is most unfortunate that the injustice done against Dr. Gerry Ortega and his family is being used as a mere backdrop to this campaign. Let us not allow ourselves to be distracted from finding the true perpetrators of this crime," Reyes said.
Reyes appealed to Hagedorn not to judge him right away, adding that he does not intend to run against him in the next election for city mayor.
"Kay Gov. Hagedorn, wag naman, wag naman, wag natin husgahan ang kasama, lalo na ako di ako ganung klaseng tao. Pulitika lang yan. Di naman ako tatakbong mayor sa Puerto Princesa. Wala na sana planong pumasok sa pulitika, hayaan ang due process of the law. Wag naman magtuturo kaagad. Nasasaktan din ako," he said. -- With a report from Abner Mercado, ABS-CBN News