September 22, 2015
On the Reyes Brothers’ Arrest
News of the Reyes brothers’ arrest in Thailand is most welcome and yet cause for much concern as well.
Welcome in that, after four years and a half, the accused masterminds of the murder of our colleague Gerry Ortega have at last been collared and, by most indications, may soon be deported back to the country to face the justice they have eluded for so long.
And yet concern because we all remember the circumstances in which they were able to flee the country in March 2012, just before warrants for their arrest were issued apparently, with false travel papers and the help of crooked immigration officials after what can only be assumed was a tip-off from even more crooked officials higher up in government about their impending arrest.
We will set aside questions raised by the claim of their lawyer that Joel and Mario Reyes were not arrested but supposedly surrendered to Thai authorities and the even more bothersome notion that they may even seek election next year.
What does seem obvious at this point is that, for all its rhetoric of wanting Joel and Mario Reyes arrested as much as anyone else seeking justice for Gerry Ortega, this government has done little, if anything, to bring this about.
We are sorry to prick his bubble again but President Aquino is way off base for saying, as quoted by Palace mouthpiece Edwin Lacierda, the capture of the brothers “proves the resolve of the government to go after the fugitives.”
And given continued inaction, even apathy, towards other cases of media killings and human rights abuses in general, we share the wariness of the Ortega family, given that, to date, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has yet to resolve the petition for review they filed against the 2011 findings of the original panel of prosecutors that ludicrously cleared the Reyes brothers of murder, notwithstanding the confessions of members of the team that carried out the hit.
It’s not yet too late for the administration to set aside its shameless credit grabbing rhetorics and actually do something to help the family achieve the justice long denied from them by our flawed legal and law enforcement system. For starters, Sec. de Lima can and should act on the long pending Petition for Review to ensure that the ongoing trial in the Palawan RTC will continue. We’ve had enough of the administration according special treatment to favored and influential individuals facing criminal charges. The Reyes brothers in the last five years had brazenly trampled upon our legal system and exposed the weaknesses and corruptibility of our enforcement systems, bribing their way out of the country and eluding arrest in a touristy hideaway until the Thai authorities had to do the work for us. It’s time for government to say it’s payback time, in concrete deeds and real words.
If anything, it has been the courage and the unwavering resolve of the Ortega family, along with all those who have stood by them in demanding justice, which have kept the flame burning and will, hopefully, finally lead to the first conviction of the masterminds in the killing of a Filipino journalist. And then, perhaps, justice will become more than an elusive dream for all the families of our 169 other murdered colleagues.