Suspect in Ortega slay dropped from murder case

Robert Chua
A judge has dropped murder charges against the former bodyguard of ex-Palawan Gov Joel Reyes, officially making him a state witness

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – A local court has dropped murder charges against a government witness who had confessed to have directed the killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2010.

In his order, Judge Angelo Arizala of the Regional Trial Court Branch 25 excluded from a pending murder complaint Rodolfo Edrad Jr, former bodyguard of ex-Palawan Gov Joel T. Reyes, suspected mastermind of Ortega’s killing. The order officially made Edrad Jr a state witness.

Lawyer Alex Avisado said he received the order from Arizala Monday afternoon, June 18. Avisado represents the Ortega family in the murder case against Reyes, his brother and Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and known associates.

Avisado explained that under the law creating the government witness protection program, a witness may be excluded from a case where he is a suspected party to a crime if he agrees to be a state witness in the prosecution of the main accused.

Edrad Jr., who surrendered to authorities following the Ortega assassination on Jan 24, 2010, had confessed that he was ordered by ex governor Reyes to kill Ortega, a popular radio broadcaster who had regularly criticized Reyes’ administration.

The Reyes brothers had gone into hiding since Judge Arizala issued an arrest warrant in early May.

Free man

Avisado explained that Edrad Jr. will remain under the justice department’s Witness Protection Program (WPP). “He (Edrad) is now a free man and can now testify freely on the Ortega murder case and its mastermind, former Governor Joel T. Reyes,” Avisado said.

In his earlier confession before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Edrad Jr claimed that he was offered by Reyes P700-M to plan the murder of Ortega, which he did by sub-contracting it to a group of hired killers from his hometown of Pagbilao, Quezon.

The alleged gunman, Marlon Recamata, was captured immediately after fatally shooting Ortega inside a used-clothing store in downtown Puerto Princesa City.

Charged with murder along with ex Governor Reyes, apart from the Pagbllao-based hit team, were his brother Mario and known former associates and employees at the provincial Capitol of Palawan.

Mario Reyes was implicated in the case based on witnesses’ claim that he allegedly handed the bulk of the payment to Edrad on the night after Ortega was murdered. – Rappler.com