MANILA, Philippines — Environmental groups on Wednesday expressed outrage at the murder of anti-mining advocate and broadcast journalist Dr. Gerardo Ortega after his morning radio program in Puerto Princesa City last January 24.
“We continue to call for justice for the tragic death of Doc Gerry. His death may be discouraging but his death gives more strength to our fight!,”Artiso Mandawa, chairman of Ancestral Land Domain Watch Network of Palawan (ALDAW), said.
“Ortega is a human rights and environmental advocate. For the past 11 months, he had been very vocal against mining and he also exposed the bribery of government officials, especially among those endorsing mining,” Mandawa said.
The suspected gunman, Marlon de Macata, with alias Marvin Alcaraz, was quickly apprehended and is now under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn also condemned the murder of Ortega, a veterinarian and a former member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan.
Hagedorn returned to Puerto Princesa the day after the killing to meet with the police and the media and said he was scheduled to meet Ortega in Manila to discuss environmental issues but those who want him dead got to him first.
Investigation reports said the suspected hired gun was from Taguig City and that the pistol he had used was registered in the name of a lawyer who used to be a legal adviser of former Gov. Joel Reyes.
Lawyer Robert Chan, executive director of the Palawan NGO Network, Inc. (PNNI), said the gruesome killing of Ortega would push environmental protection advocates to work with vigor.
“Now is not the time for us to feel sorry about the incident. It is a time for us to be angry, for it is that anger that will fuel our motivation to do something about it, that of which is our duty to prevent any violence to curtailing free speech,” Chan said.
Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM) national coordinator Jayvee Garganera also condoled with the bereaved family of Ortega.
“We join the family of Ortega in mourning the death of another environmental advocate, a comrade in the fight against mining and corruption in the government,” Garganera said.
“Palawan is struggling against mining now and a lot of individuals and groups come together to openly expose the issues of mining there. Ortega may have been killed to silence the struggle against mining, but the fight will not end as long as mining companies are scattered in the Last Frontier—we will relentlessly fight and claim our right for land and a secure environment,” he said.