Philippines: RSF and NGO coalition provide authorities with insights on hideout of mastermind behind journalist's murder

During a mission to the Philippines earlier this week, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a coalition of international press freedom organisations provided authorities with insights on the hideout of former Palawan province governor Joel T. Reyes, the alleged mastermind of a journalist’s assassination 13 years ago, and called for his immediate arrest.

Representatives of “A Safer World for the Truth”, a coalition composed of international press freedom organisations, namely RSF, Free Press Unlimited (FPU) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), together with the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), met with the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Police (PNP) this week in Manila. 

They provided these institutions with unprecedented insights relating to the hideout of former governor of the province of Palawan, Joel T. Reyes, suspected of being the mastermind behind the murder in 2011 of radio journalist Gerry Ortega, and urged for his immediate arrest. During the meetings, DoJ’s Assistant Secretary Jose Dominic F. Clavano IV pledged to deal with the matter with urgency, while the PNP Chief Benjamin Acorda Jr. vowed to implement the warrant of arrest against Reyes.

“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, the alleged mastermind of the murder of Gerry Ortega. It is now their responsibility to immediately arrest the former governor and bring justice to the journalist's relatives, 13 years after this shocking crime.

Cédric Alviani
RSF Asia-Pacific Bureau Director

The NGO coalition, which started operating in 2020 to coordinate investigations on the cases of murdered journalists around the world, has in recent years pointed out major deficiencies in the judicial procedures involved in Ortega's murder. During the meetings with Filipino officials, the coalition expressed concern about Reyes' latest attempt to transfer the trial to the Quezon City Regional Court, which could hamper a prompt trial. Numerous legal rulings have delayed the case, leaving Ortega's family without justice and exposing them and key witnesses to security risks.

During this mission, the RSF delegation, composed of Asia-Pacific Bureau Director Cédric Alviani, Advocacy Officer Aleksandra Bielakowska and JTI Regional Officer Liangwei Huang, met the Presidential Task Force on Media Security (PTFOMS), Philippines Information Agency (PIA), representatives of local media organisations as well as members of the media and foreign correspondents. The delegation also organised a workshop introducing media outlets from Metropolitan Manila to the Journalism Trust Initiative, a global project that establishes an international standard for journalistic best practices aimed at restoring the public’s trust in the media.

With 204 journalists murdered since the restoration of democracy in 1986, the Philippines is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists and press freedom defenders and ranks 132nd out of 180 on the 2023 RSF World Press Freedom Index.

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