Former gov’s aide convicted in Ortega case

Originally published on the CMFR website on 11 March 2016.

 

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The Puerto Princesa City court convicted of murder last 7 March 2016 one of the suspects in the killing of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega in 2011.

Branch 52 Judge Angelo Arizala of the Regional Trial Court of Puerto Princesa City sentenced Arturo “Nonoy” Regalado to the penalty of reclusion perpetua or a maximum of 40 years imprisonment. The court also ordered Regalado to pay Php 50,000 as civil indemnity, Php 7,621,900 in lost earning capacity, Php 526,102.69 in actual damages, Php 50,000 in moral damages and Php 30,000 in exemplary damages.

Michaella Ortega, daughter of the slain journalist, told CMFR that Regalado will serve his sentence at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan.

Regalado was a known close aide of former Palawan governor and alleged mastermind Jose Reyes. The court established that Regalado provided the money to purchase the gun used in the murder of Ortega.

DwAR broadcaster Gerry Ortega was in a store in Puerto Princesa 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 was critical of the allegedly unrestrained mining activities in the province, saying that it was 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.

On 7 May 2013, the Palawan court sentenced to reclusion perpetua Marlon Recamata, who confessed to the killing and who pointed to Reyes and his brother, former Coron town mayor Mario Reyes, as the masterminds.

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.

The brothers were arrested for overstaying in Thailand on 20 September 2015. Their deportation revived the flagging legal proceedings in the Ortega’s case.

There have been 151 journalists killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 1986. Only 15 out of these 151 cases have been partly resolved with the conviction of the gunmen. No mastermind has so far been successfully prosecuted, except in the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre trial, in which some of the accused are said to be among the masterminds.

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