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Kaya Natin! Statement of Support for the Justice for Dr. Gerry Ortega Movement

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment

 

We, the leaders of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, express our strong support in seeking truth and justice for Dr. Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega who was slain last January 24, 2011 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

 

Dr. Gerardo Ortega, more popularly known as Ka Gerry or Doc Gerry in his hometown, served as the director of the Palawan Crocodile farm for many years. As an environmentalist, he was a strong critic and advocate against illegal mining and worked on strengthening tourism in Palawan. As a journalist, he strongly expressed his contempt against graft and corruption especially on the issue regarding the misuse of the Malampaya Natural Gas Project fund.

 

Only minutes after Ortega was murdered, the gunman, Marlon Recamata, was captured and later identified his accomplices: Dennis Aranas, the lookout; Armando Noel, who recruited the killer and the lookout; and Rodolfo “Bumar” Edrad Jr., a former Marine and the acknowledged team leader. Aranas was also captured while Noel and Edrad voluntarily surrendered to officials, who all admitted participation in the murder. Edrad then identified former Palawan governor Joel T. Reyes to be the mastermind of the assassination.

 

Upon further investigation, several players in the murder were also named: Atty. Romeo Seratubias, Reyes’ lawyer and provincial administrator, who owned the gun used to kill Ortega; Percival Lesias, a photographer in the office of Vice Gov. Fems Reyes (Joel’s wife) who bought the gun from Seratubias; Arturo Regalado, a close-in security of Joel Reyes, who gave Lesias the money to buy the gun from Seratubias, then got the purchased gun, and gave it to the group of Recamata.

 

Last June 8, 2011, after four months of investigation, the prosecution panel formed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) tasked to look into the Ortega assassination dismissed the case against Joel T. Reyes and his accomplices by the reason of “insufficiency of evidence” and finding no probable cause for the murder.

 

We express contempt and disappointment at the decision given by the DOJ prosecution panel to absolve Reyes and his accomplices from the case despite solid confessions made by the hit group as well as the evidences presented before the panel which all point to Reyes as the mastermind behind the crime.

 

The bereaved family of Ortega has already filed a motion for reconsideration and a motion for reinvestigation last July 1, 2011 to open the case again. Up to date, the family is still waiting for a decision from DOJ.

 

We strongly express our full support to Doc Gerry’s eldest daughter, Mika, who is actively seeking truth and justice, not only for her dad’s murder, but also for other victims of injustice and impunity in media killings.

 

It is our appeal that the Department of Justice live up to its name and live by the values of truth and justice. We call on them to objectively and conscientiously consider the numerous evidences available and find probable cause so that there can be a full-blown trial where the prosecution can properly present more hard evidences and the accused can defend themselves in the appropriate venue. If left unanswered, the case would only embolden other corrupt officials to silence those like Ortega who are truly contributing to good governance by calling attention to anomalous officials.

 

Furthermore, we also call on the abovementioned government body to join our rally for good governance and ethical leadership by contributing in the efforts to end impunities related to unjust media killings nationwide. The murder of Ortega is only one of many killings that are politically motivated, and the government must exhaust all efforts to put a stop to these crimes. For what good is a democracy if citizens cannot freely express their concerns about the government in a constructive way?

 

Finally, we call on every Filipino who value our democracy to support the Ortega family in their fight for justice. This is not merely a fight for one individual, but a fight to end injustice and extrajudicial killings in our country.

 

Signed:

 

Jesse Robredo, Secretary, Department of the Interior and Local Government

Grace Padaca, former Governor, Isabela

Among Ed Panlilio, former Governor, Pampanga

Neric Acosta, Presidential Adviser for Environmental Protection

Bolet Banal, Representative, Quezon City

Kaka Bag-ao, Representative, AKBAYAN

Teddy Baguilat, Jr., Representative, Ifugao

Sonia Lorenzo, former Mayor, San Isidro, Nueva Ecija

Roque Verzosa, Jr., Mayor, Tagudin, Ilocos Sur

Florante Gerdan, former Mayor, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya

Cecilia Clare Reyes, Mayor, Alicia, Isabela

Marivic Belena, Mayor, San Jose City, Nueva Ecija

Gloria Congco, Mayor, Cabiao, Nueva Ecija

Valente Yap, Mayor, Bindoy, Negros Oriental

Shirlyn Macasarte, Board Member, North Cotabato

Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, former Councilor, Bacolod City

Janaree Disomimba, former Mayor, Tamparan, Lanao del Sur

Mabel Sunga-Acosta, former Councilor, Davao City

Fermin Mabulo, former Mayor, San Fernando, Camarines Sur

Francis Tinio, former Councilor, Binalonan, Pangasinan

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Why Survivor USA backed out of Culion, Palawan

March 6, 2011 17 comments

Why Survivor USA backed out of Culion, Palawan

by: Harvey S. Keh

Two weeks ago, I had the chance to listen to a talk given by noted social entrepreneur, Fr. Javy Alpasa, S.J. about his experiences in helping set-up Rags2Riches and more recently, Hotel Maya in Culion, Palawan. This talk was part of the Philippine Social Entrepreneurship Club’s monthly series which features successful social entrepreneurs and social enterprises. For those who may not be familiar with Culion, this island in the Northern part of Palawan used to be a leper colony which the Jesuit missions managed but since the 1960s to 1970s, all of those living in the island have been healed or are no longer infected with the disease.  Now, much of the people there live solely on fishing and farming, many of them continue to experience a life of poverty as national government services barely reaches them. Yet, when one goes to the island, it has beaches that would rival the best in the whole world. Unlike the beaches of Boracay where parties happen on a regular basis, Culion’s beauty is in its offer of peace and tranquility to the weary traveler. Perhaps this is the reason why Fr. Alpasa decided to set-up the first eco-tourism social enterprise in the Philippines, Hotel Maya in Culion.

Hotel Maya

The hotel aims to attract travelers from all over the world who wish to savor the silence, take a break and reflect about life. Since it opened last year, foreigners and local travelers alike have flocked to this tropical island paradise to escape from the busy rigors of our day to day lives. Due to eco-tourism, many of the locals who live in the island are now experiencing a better quality of life due to employment and livelihood opportunities (such as the creation of souvenir items) that are provided for by Hotel Maya. More recently, the island of Culion was even recommended by no less than National Geographic as one of the Best Trips that one can take this year.

Survivor USA

News about the beauty of the island easily spread thus, one of the producers of the very famous reality show, Survivor USA came to visit several times and was already all set to bring Survivor USA to Culion when the people of a notorious local politician in the area went to see the executive producer to tell him that it wouldn’t be safe to hold Survivor USA in Culion. This was an obvious lie since Culion practically has a 0% crime rate. This local politician who is also influential in the national scene is known to be an illegal logger in the area and has always harassed non-profit organizations who advocate for the protection of the environment in Palawan.  He was afraid that is Survivor USA pushed through with its plan, it will bring more attention from our government and media to the island which in turn may eventually expose his illegal activities. Sadly, due to this incident the producer left and decided to bring Survivor USA to another location.

Imagine the kind of free promotion Culion and our country would’ve easily received if Survivor USA was held in Culion. Imagine the tourism boom that we would’ve easily gotten if this would’ve pushed through but alas, due to the personal, selfish interests of a local politician who wanted to protect his illegal activities, our country lost millions of dollars that would’ve been brought by tourists from all over the world. The people of Culion lost livelihood opportunities that a tourism boom could’ve brought which may have been their own ticket out of poverty.

Destruction of natural resources

According to Fr. Alpasa, our Lord was so gracious to us as he gifted our country with wonderful natural resources that can help improve the life of every Filipino. Alas,  it is only a few which have continued to benefit from this as illegal logging and the destruction of our natural resources for the sake of a few vested interests is now happening all over Palawan. We all know that Palawan is one if not the richest province in the Philippines in terms of natural resources.  Yet, many of their local political leaders are now working with private sector groups to exploit these natural resources. These same natural resources if protected and used properly could help thousands of Filipinos attain a better quality of life as we have seen in what Hotel Maya has done for the people in Culion.  Sadly, these same natural resources if abused and not taken cared of will not only affect this present generation but also the future generations as we have seen in recent flash floods all over the country caused by years of illegal logging in our forests and mountains.

I pray that our national government leaders will work towards addressing this growing problem in Palawan which has already caused the death of noted broadcaster and environmental activist Gerry Ortega. May his death not be in vain and may it continue to inspire us to remain vigilant against our corrupt political leaders who wish to destroy our environment and our children’s future.

For those who want to visit Hotel Maya in Culion, Palawan, you can visit their website at http://www.islaculionhotelmaya.com/ .

Comments are welcome at harveykeh@gmail.com .