The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP) marked the 13th death anniversary of broadcaster and environmental activist Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega with a call to “end the culture of impunity in attacks against media workers”.
“Each year that passes that the victim’s family is denied justice pushes the brazen killing further from memory and makes closure to the case seem even more distant,” the group said in a statement.
On January 24, 2011, Ortega was shot in the head at point-blank range at a thrift store in Puerto Princesa City in the province of Palawan. He was a prominent environmental activist who exposed the alleged misuse of gas field funds.
On the same day, the alleged gunman, Marlon Dichavez Recamata, was apprehended. He admitted to the killing and said that his group was hired by the former close-in security of former Governor Joel Reyes of Palawan.
NUJP expressed dismay over the decision of the Supreme Court to allow Reyes’ petition to transfer the ongoing trial of the case from Palawan to the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
The High Court granted the petition on Dec. 4 but it was only made public recently.
The group said it was “surprised” that the decision was made “even as the [Reyes] remains in hiding and refusing to submit himself to the court.
“We strongly believe that there is no justifiable reason to transfer the case, and doing so will only prolong the trial that is already proceeding in earnest at the Palawan Regional Trial Court,” said NUJP.
In a parallel statement, the Environmental Defenders Congress denounced the alleged “continuous attempts” by the Reyes family clan to delay the case.
The group said Ortega’s murder “is emblematic of the challenges faced by both journalists and environmental defenders” in the country, adding that it highlights the dangers both journalists and activists “confront and the persistent threats to freedom of expression”.