The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines demands that the Department of Justice and the Department of Foreign Affairs immediately get to the bottom of the reported escape of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario.
At the same time, we join the appeal of the family of Gerry Ortega, whose death the Reyes brothers are accused of masterminding, to the Court of Appeals to allow justice take its course and reject the suspects’ bid to drop the murder charges and nullify the warrant of arrest against them.
To do so in favor of these confirmed fugitives would indeed be, as the Ortega family rightly point out, a “horrific injustice” that can only send the message that the murder of journalists and other human rights violations in this country can continue to be committed with impunity.
The Bureau of Immigration has already relieved two of its personnel — Wesley Gutierrez and Rodel Udarbe — assigned to the NAIA Terminal 3, from where the Reyes brothers reportedly departed for Vietnam.
News reports say it was Gutierrez who cleared Joseph Lim Pe, the name on the passport allegedly used by the former governor, and Mario Reyes when they left the country on Cebu Pacific Flight 5J751 on March 18 this year, nine days before a warrant for their arrest was issued by a Palawan trial court.
Udarbe, on the other hand, allegedly fetched the Reyes brothers from Pasay City and escorted them to the airport.
If we recall, earlier news reports also had the Bureau of Immigration claiming that there were no closed circuit television cameras at the immigration counters of the NAIA3, a rather implausible, if convenient, claim.
But even if true, do not the immigration counters have cameras that are used to check passengers as they are cleared for departure? We demand that the BI check and make public the files from these cameras on the day the Reyes brothers reportedly left.
As for the DFA, the only logical explanation for how Reyes managed to acquire a new passport in the name of Pe is that someone high enough in rank facilitated this, considering that the process for acquiring a new passport requires applicants to personally appear at the consular office to be photographed and undergo biometrics recording.
We also wonder why, given the reported escape of the Reyes brothers, both of whom have bounties, no one has yet announced that their passports, including the one in the name of Pe, have been cancelled.
We also contend that the Reyes brothers fled ahead of the issuance of the warrant for their arrest was because they had been tipped off. And the only source of the tip would have been the Department of Justice.
This fiasco has gone on for too long with little, if nothing, done to ferret out the truth.
Unless heads roll, and soon, people cannot be blamed for believing the Reyes brothers’ great escape was pulled off with more than a nod and a wink from the powers that be.
Rowena C. Paraan