Sec. De Lima: don’t kill Ortega case with technicalities

Joint Statement

23 September 2015

With much pomp and circumstance, the brothers Joel and Mario Reyes,
entrenched local politicians in Palawan province notorious as the
suspected masterminds of the murder of our comrade environmentalist Dr.
Gerry Ortega, have been presented as captured from hiding and bound for
deportation from Thailand.

While the arrest is better late than never, the window of opportunity
for a decisive swing in the prosecution of the Reyes brothers is
precariously small.

Should Justice Secretary Leila De Lima resign soon from her position as
planned, her review of an earlier DOJ ruling that attempted to absolve
the Reyes brothers is threatened of cancellation by technicality. For
the longest time, we know the strategy of the Reyes brothers had been
hedged on technicalities. This is exactly what they want.

We thus demand Sec. De Lima to immediately resolve the petition for
review even before her planned resignation, and ensure that she leaves
behind mechanisms to effectively fast-track the Ortega case and all
other pending cases involving our fellow environmentalists and activists.

Not doing so will only paint a picture that the capture of the Reyes
Brothers under De Lima is a mere publicity stunt. It will tarnish any
future endeavor of Sec. De Lima with the questionable track record of
being unable to effectively resolve any of the outstanding 86 cases of
political and extrajudicial killings against environmental advocates. It
will further cast a shadow of doubt on her motives, as she previously
served as the Reyes’ private election lawyer.

Let us not forget that in the first place, the four years’ worth of
inaction over the Ortega murder not only by Sec. De Lima, but by the
entire machinery of the Aquino administration. The Aquino
administration’s inaction has allowed the Reyes brothers to pass through
the Department of Foreign Affairs and escape to Thailand undetected, and
sabotage the legal actions against them for more than four years.

We have reiterated time and again that the only way we can exact justice
for Dr. Gerry Ortega and all other environmental martyrs is not only
through the prosecution and subsequent punishment of the perpetrators,
but also the continuation of their legacy.

How can we pursue Dr. Gerry’s dream of a mining-free and
corruption-ridden Palawan if the climate of impunity is perpetuated by
the Aquino administration? Who will defend the environmental defenders
when the public authorities who must ensure justice and the advancement
of human rights are inept and dysfunctional?

We call on the people to continue adding their voice to the Justice for
Dr. Gerry Ortega Movement’s petition to concerned authorities if they
have yet to do so. We challenge Sec. De Lima to at least end her
controversial and unproductive term as a Justice Secretary with an
upward trajectory by taking action on the case of Dr. Gerry Ortega. We
rest on the shoulders of the entire Aquino administration the challenge
to speed up the multitude of other cases of killing, harassments,
displacements, militarization, trumped-up charges, and other Marcosian
attacks on the rights of environmental advocates and the Filipino people
at large.#

LEON DULCE
Spokesperson
Task Force – Justice for Environmental Defenders

CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
secretariat@kalikasan.net

Reference: Leon Dulce – 0917 562 6824