Int’l groups urge Marcos Jr. to solve 13-year long murder of environmental journalist

“We are here today to urge and call upon President Marcos Jr.’s administration and the law enforcement agency to act upon this crucial piece of information and to immediately arrest the mastermind on Ortega’s murder. It’s time to say enough is enough.”


MANILA – A coalition of international media organizations conducted a mission in the Philippines to address the 13-year-old murder of Filipino environmental journalist Gerry Ortega whose primary suspect, former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes, remains at large.

In a March 1 press conference, “A Safer World for Truth” initiative urged the Marcos Jr administration to look further into Ortega’s case. This initiative is headed by international press freedom organizations Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and international media watchdogs Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), as well as local media organization the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP).

Dr. Gerry Ortega

FPU’s Jos Bartman said that the coalition deemed it necessary to meet with different government offices when they received information on the whereabouts of the alleged mastermind Reyes, adding that bringing them such information should speed up the case and bring justice to the Ortega family.

Ortega was an environmentalist and one of the broadcast journalists in Palawan who reported on the misuse of the Malampaya fund by the local government. He was killed on Jan. 24, 2011.

His case remains unsolved. The alleged mastermind remains at-large despite the evidence presented against him. Reyes even managed to run for governor in Palawan during the 2022 local elections. The coalition was also concerned about Reyes’s latest attempts to transfer the trial to the Quezon City regional trial court for this could affect the ongoing trial in Palawan.

According to Bartman, they met with Assistant Secretary of Justice Jose Dominic Clavano at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on February 29 where they presented the information they have on Reyes. “We gave him the information on the location, giving them the opportunity to finally put the trial in effect,” Bartman said, adding that they will also meet with the Philippine National Police (PNP).

CPJ’s Beh Li Yi said that Ortega’s case is considered to an ‘emblematic case’ of the entrenched impunity when it comes to journalist killings in the Philippines. “Until the real mastermind is brought to justice, this case will continue to create a chilling effect on the media in the country and send the message that journalists, or any journalist known simply for doing their job and for covering things like corruption can be silenced with impunity.”

Yi added that the CPJ has been known for documenting and researching the press freedom situation in the Philippines for a very long time, and that it remains to be a dangerous country for journalists based on the consistently high rankings of the country in CPJ’s Impunity Index.

“We are here today to urge and call upon President Marcos Jr.’s administration and the law enforcement agency to act upon this crucial piece of information and to immediately arrest the mastermind on Ortega’s murder. It’s time to say enough is enough,” Yi said.

RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director Cédric Alviani said that although it is commendable that the Philippines’ ranking RSF’s World Press Freedom Index has jumped from 147th to 132nd, the fact remains that 13 years has passed since Ortega’s killing and they are still waiting for action from the government.

“It’s true that the Philippines is a democracy, there is press freedom to a certain extent, but how can you (journalists) do your work properly when you might get shot at any time for any reason. This is not acceptable,” Alviani said.

The NUJP said that the alleged mastermind still being free speaks so much on the press freedom situation of a country. Ronalyn V. Olea, secretary-general of NUJP, said that there is a standing warrant against Reyes and they hope that authorities will implement the warrant against Reyes soon, especially now that international organizations have aided them with his last known location. 

“The killing of Gerry Ortega and other journalists have aggravated the climate of impunity in the country,” Olea said, adding that even UNSR Irene Khan, who visited the country last month, also pointed out that government actions have not been enough to address impunity. She stressed that the administration should also look into bringing justice to the four other journalists killed under the current administration. “The families of the victims also experience anguish and anxiety so long as the mastermind and perpetrators of these killings are not brought to justice.” (JJE, DAA) (

Disclosure: Ronalyn V. Olea is also the editor-in-chief of Bulatlat.

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