Thursday, May 17, 2012

Palawan ex-guv, brother now on Interpol wanted list

MANILA -- The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has placed former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, in the red notice list of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). The Reyes siblings were charged with murder for the death of radio broadcaster and environmental activist Gerardo "Doc Gerry" Ortega. Ortega was gunned down last January 24 at a used clothing store in Puerto Princesa. Former governor Reyes was tagged as the alleged mastermind after the gunman behind the killing squealed. The Reyes brothers were included in the Interpol's wanted list after they failed to surrender to authorities following the issuance of warrants of arrest by the Puerto Princesa regional trial court. They went into hiding last March after the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to indict them for the murder of Ortega. "While speculations arose that the brothers have left the country illegally, this development surely gives us much hope that eventually, they will be captured and tried in the court of law," Ortega's daughter, Michaela Angeli, said in a statement. The Ortega family and their sympathizers earlier offered a P1.55-million reward for those who could provide information that would lead to the arrest of the Reyes brothers. "We call for the brothers to surrender immediately and peacefully. The mere fact that they remain as fugitives to this day – international fugitives at that -- does not do anything to convince our family and the people of the Philippines of their innocence," Michaela added. The Reyes brothers were charged with murder along with former Palawan provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias, Arturo Regalado and Valentin Lecias for the killing of the hard-hitting broadcaster. Out of the five suspects, the Reyes brothers are the only ones who are still at large. Seratubias was arrested immediately following the issuance of the warrant. Regalado surrendered to authorities a few weeks later, while Lecias was apprehended in Manila. In its resolution, the DOJ said the radio commentaries of Ortega on s alleged irregularities in the bidding out and awarding of mining concessions in Palawan, as well as alleged misuse of public funds coming from the Malampaya gas project, served as motive for the conspiracy to murder him. The prosecutors also gave weight on the additional evidence submitted by the Ortega family, such as the mobile phone communications between another suspect, Rodolfo "Bumar" Edrad Jr. and Reyes, as well as the recording of radio commentaries of the victim against the former Palawan governor. Based on the scrutiny of the former governor's outgoing text messages, he sent 15 text messages to Edrad in December 2010, 27 text messages in January 2011 and 16 out of 84 text messages on January 24, 2011, the day Ortega was killed. Such frequent communication between Edrad and Reyes belie the latter's denials that the gunman had served as his close-in security or of the lack of conspiracy in committing the crime, said the prosecutors. (JCV/Sunnex)