On 7 September 2011, the secretary of the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the formation of a new panel to reinvestigate the murder of Palawan-based radio broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega.
The new three-man panel, assembled by DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima, is composed of Assistant State Prosecutors Stewart Allan A. Mariano, Vimar M. Barcellano and Gerard Gaerlan.
De Lima said the reinvestigation aims to “give both parties all the reasonable opportunity to present their evidence during the preliminary investigation”. She added that the new panel will “address the offer of additional evidence by the complainants, which was denied by the former panel in its resolution of 2 September 2011 on the ground that an earlier resolution has already been promulgated prior to the filing of said motion, and such other issues which may be raised before the present panel.”
On 8 June 2011, the previous panel dismissed the case against alleged masterminds former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, former Marinduque governor Joe Carreon, incumbent Coron Mayor Mario Reyes and three others, due to “insufficiency of evidence”.
The widow of the deceased, Patria Gloria Ortega, filed the original murder charges against the nine accused individuals in conjunction with the National Bureau of Investigation. She had previously filed a partial motion for reconsideration in protest of the dismissal, which was denied by a resolution of the previous board on 2 September 2011.
Ortega, a broadcaster with Radio Mindanao Network, was shot dead on 24 January, 2011 in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. He was the second journalist killed in the line of duty under the new Benigno Aquino III administration.
One hundred and twenty one journalists and media workers have been killed in the line of duty in the Philippines since 1986. Only 10 cases have resulted in convictions. No mastermind has been convicted.
CMFR (http://www.cmfr-phil.org) is a SEAPA founding member based in Manila, the Philippines, working to promote ethical journalism and to protect press freedom.