Berliner Boersenzeitung - A 13-year fight for justice in Philippine activist's murder

AED 3.986748
AFN 77.996197
ALL 100.365182
AMD 421.557787
ANG 1.95626
AOA 923.14689
ARS 966.011532
AUD 1.633389
AWG 1.956454
AZN 1.846125
BAM 1.957461
BBD 2.19166
BDT 127.318058
BGN 1.957327
BHD 0.409189
BIF 3115.644326
BMD 1.085411
BND 1.464643
BOB 7.500366
BRL 5.574893
BSD 1.085421
BTN 90.334669
BWP 14.7275
BYN 3.552215
BYR 21274.059831
BZD 2.187957
CAD 1.483258
CDF 3039.151129
CHF 0.990651
CLF 0.035753
CLP 986.537299
CNY 7.864238
CNH 7.869226
COP 4155.637943
CRC 556.572377
CUC 1.085411
CUP 28.763397
CVE 110.358664
CZK 24.735654
DJF 193.264028
DKK 7.462523
DOP 63.804152
DZD 145.994281
EGP 51.159885
ERN 16.281168
ETB 62.364731
FJD 2.459655
FKP 0.864095
GBP 0.851788
GEL 2.952496
GGP 0.864095
GHS 15.793404
GIP 0.864095
GMD 73.536458
GNF 9330.919386
GTQ 8.434158
GYD 227.212841
HKD 8.474836
HNL 26.825768
HRK 7.576123
HTG 144.362524
HUF 387.075024
IDR 17397.513673
ILS 3.986113
IMP 0.864095
INR 90.346319
IQD 1421.906808
IRR 45655.11147
ISK 150.11003
JEP 0.864095
JMD 169.483845
JOD 0.76945
JPY 169.905933
KES 143.826411
KGS 95.510649
KHR 4425.756251
KMF 493.699306
KPW 976.869766
KRW 1476.755698
KWD 0.333145
KYD 0.904568
KZT 480.888142
LAK 23208.697807
LBP 97201.69753
LKR 325.746469
LRD 210.108486
LSL 19.852395
LTL 3.204937
LVL 0.656554
LYD 5.252458
MAD 10.796663
MDL 19.190287
MGA 4807.07989
MKD 61.658242
MMK 2279.434614
MNT 3744.668449
MOP 8.729109
MRU 43.123504
MUR 50.219541
MVR 16.769945
MWK 1881.997299
MXN 18.054567
MYR 5.106312
MZN 68.857518
NAD 19.852024
NGN 1571.135982
NIO 39.95391
NOK 11.516571
NPR 144.535671
NZD 1.770235
OMR 0.417689
PAB 1.085421
PEN 4.051138
PGK 4.21858
PHP 63.084211
PKR 302.079683
PLN 4.2636
PYG 8162.928083
QAR 3.952253
RON 4.975536
RSD 117.139783
RUB 97.899594
RWF 1427.311395
SAR 4.070955
SBD 9.226246
SCR 14.643782
SDG 652.332799
SEK 11.592951
SGD 1.463676
SHP 1.371363
SLE 24.798719
SLL 22760.531511
SOS 619.769899
SRD 35.287083
STD 22465.820731
SVC 9.498061
SYP 2727.128085
SZL 19.938923
THB 39.609365
TJS 11.690222
TMT 3.798939
TND 3.388107
TOP 2.567377
TRY 34.970093
TTD 7.366252
TWD 34.937543
TZS 2822.195081
UAH 43.360101
UGX 4151.523503
USD 1.085411
UYU 41.575286
UZS 13811.722357
VEF 3931959.150861
VES 39.618315
VND 27644.880962
VUV 128.862179
WST 3.042509
XAF 656.5142
XAG 0.035392
XAU 0.000458
XCD 2.933378
XDR 0.819996
XOF 656.5142
XPF 119.331742
YER 271.787948
ZAR 19.912694
ZMK 9770.002049
ZMW 28.73739
ZWL 349.501969
  • CMSC












  • SCS




  • BCC




  • BCE




  • CMSD




  • NGG




  • JRI




  • GSK




  • VOD




  • RELX




  • RIO




  • AZN




  • BP




  • BTI




A 13-year fight for justice in Philippine activist's murder
A 13-year fight for justice in Philippine activist's murder / Photo: JAM STA ROSA - AFP

A 13-year fight for justice in Philippine activist's murder

When Philippine environmental activist and radio host Gerry Ortega was shot dead on the tropical island of Palawan, his family and friends believed there was enough damning evidence to convict the alleged mastermind.

Text size:

But more than 13 years later, the man accused of ordering the hit, former provincial governor Joel Reyes, is in hiding, while his brother, also implicated, is a mayor.

In a country where hundreds of journalists and environmental defenders have been killed in the past two decades, Ortega's murder on January 24, 2011, stands out for its brazenness.

The father-of-five was shot in the back of the head at a second-hand clothes shop along a busy road in the Palawan capital of Puerto Princesa.

Ortega had just finished his morning radio show where he frequently railed against politicians, including Reyes, who he accused of corruption and allowing Palawan's forests and minerals to be plundered.

"He made a lot of enemies, but he made the biggest enemy in Joel Reyes and that's why he was killed," Redempto Anda, a journalist in Palawan and friend of Ortega's, told AFP.

Reyes has always denied involvement in the murder.

Ortega's killer was caught and the gun he used traced to a close aide of the former governor.

A bodyguard, who hired the hit squad, turned state witness and implicated Reyes.

But Reyes remains free after many legal twists and turns in the case, leaving Ortega's family, friends and rights groups to lament over the prevailing "culture of impunity" in the Philippines.

"We just really want to have a fair and honest trial," daughter Michaella, 35, told AFP.

"It's been 13 years. Evidence is there."

- Press groups urge arrest -

Prosecutors initially cleared the Reyes brothers of involvement in Ortega's death, but reversed their decision in March 2012 and charged them.

The brothers fled to Thailand where they were caught three years later and deported to the Philippines.

Reyes was freed in 2018 after a court voided the case against him but the charges were reinstated nearly two years later.

The Supreme Court issued a stay on the order for Reyes' re-arrest while it heard his plea for reconsideration, but last year rejected his appeal, ordering him to be arrested and resume trial.

Lawyers for Reyes, who went into hiding, are now seeking to have the case moved from Palawan to Manila, which the Ortega family insist is another delay tactic.

Reyes claimed he was framed for Ortega's murder and that he could not receive a "fair trial" in Palawan, Rolando Bonoan, a friend of Reyes, told AFP.

Despite the murder charge, Reyes ran for Palawan governor in 2022 elections but lost.

Mario, a former mayor of Coron municipality, succeeded in his re-election bid.

Press advocacy groups, including the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), recently met with Philippine authorities to provide information about Reyes' location.

"The information we have provided to the Department of Justice and the National Police provides all the keys to finding and arresting Joel T. Reyes," said Cedric Alviani of RSF.

Neither the justice department nor the police responded to AFP's requests for comment.

- 'Someone chose for him to die' -

At their home in Puerto Princesa, Ortega's widow Patty and two of their children thumb through photo albums filled with memories.

Michaella said the family still struggle with the loss of her father.

"Death in the family is already really, really tragic, but murder means someone chose for him to die," she said.

"Someone planned it, someone paid someone to make that happen."

Ortega was a passionate defender of Palawan's environment, home to beautiful beaches, stunning coral reefs and biodiverse forests.

Patty said she felt angry at the lack of justice for her husband, but refused to be consumed by it.

"As much as possible we keep our focus on what he was fighting for because I also believe in what he was fighting for," she said.

- 'It can happen to anyone' -

After the killing of another radio broadcaster in November, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos said attacks on journalists would not be tolerated.

Last month, the Presidential Task Force on Media Security said the suspected gunman in that shooting had been arrested, signalling the Marcos administration's commitment to "ensuring that perpetrators of violence are arrested and made to pay for their crimes".

But the Ortega family and rights activists point to the long list of journalists and environmentalists killed in recent years, and the lack of justice for those victims.

In Palawan, the murder of someone as high-profile as Ortega had a chilling effect on journalists and activists.

"Why did it happen? So it can happen to anyone?" said Grizelda Mayo-Anda, head of the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, which worked with Ortega.

Redempto Anda often collaborated with Ortega on stories.

One of their most sensitive exposes -- and the one that Anda is convinced got Ortega killed -- was about the alleged misuse of millions of dollars from the Malampaya gas field off Palawan.

"He was very, very critical, very vocal and unafraid," said Anda, editor-in-chief of the Palawan News.

Since Ortega's death, Anda said he had been more cautious in his reporting.

"It's not like surrendering our independence in terms of being able to cover a story, but being more circumspect," he said.

Michaella said it was important their fight for justice succeeded so other "brave voices" could be safe.

"Maybe it would send a message that you can't just kill people for speaking out... that just because you're powerful you're not going to get away with it," she said.

"Maybe, because we're not there yet."