Monday, January 24, 2011

Forgiveness, yes, but justice above all

Paul Ouano Licuanan was still digesting the latest commentary of “Ramatak” anchor Gerry Ortega when he received a text message from his wife. (*Photo courtesy of Paul)

Just a few minutes after his radio program on RMN Puerto Princesa local affiliate, dwAR, Ortega died from a gunshot wound to the head while shopping for clothes in a second-hand store in Barangay San Pedro.

Licuanan rushed to the crime site. He managed to take photos of the slain man fondly called Doc Gerry by Palawan’s environmentalists. Doc Gerry’s body lay in a pool of blood, so fresh it was still bright red.

He was the second journalist in Palawan killed allegedly for their intense criticism of mining activities in this tourist paradise.

First, there was Dong

Doc Gerry was a good friend of the first victim, Fernando “Dong” Batul. Also among Doc Gerry’s other friends are journalists forced to leave Palawan after environmental reportage led to a barrage of death threats.

Doc Gerry had received numerous death threats, too; some of these he read during his radio program. The danger posed by his environmental advocacy had forced him to hire a personal aide.

“We already got him a bodyguard kasi mas marami na yun threats lalo na before the May elections. I thought nga na nawala na. I never thought people will actually do this. In his fight for what is right he made a lot of enemies," his daughter, Mika, told ABS-CBN.

Still, the gunman had managed to get close enough to shoot Doc Gerry at pointblank range. And he could have gotten away, too, except for the valiant chase by Doc Gerry’s aide and the timely help that came from responding fire department workers.

The alleged gunman, Marlon Dicamata or Marvin Alcaraz, is with the police. He is either from Taguig City or Pagbilao, Quezon. Such is the way of hired killers, who shed identities as easily as they throw away murder weapons.

Doc Gerry was a hard-hitting commentator. But his environmental work also had a softer side. He was project manager of ABS-CBN Foundation’s Bayanijuan in Puerto Princesa.

His project had just launched five ecotourism sites in Puerto Princesa: the Pacific Asia Travel Association Gold Awardee firefly watching in Iwahig River, Dalubkaragatan Bacungan river cruise in Sitio San Carlos, Pambato Reef snorkeling, dolphin and whale watching in Honda Bay, and Ugong Rock spelunking and zipline.

“Gerry's death comes as a total shock and only serves to increase my determination that his dreams come true,” ABS-CBN Foundation managing director Gina Lopez said in a statement.

“He loved Palawan, and his greatest passion was to protect its natural resources. He could feel the pain of the communities that we’re adversely affected by mining. He loved from his heart the communities we were helping. I personally commit to make sure his dreams come true.”

Under siege

Palawan’s pristine environment is perpetually under siege from economic activities, ranging from the small-scale subsistence kaingin to multi-million peso mining concessions. Recently, environmentalists in Puerto Princesa have reported that quarrying, which has been banned, has resumed on the city’s outskirts.

Ortega would have met tomorrow in Manila with other anti-mining advocates under the Global Legal Action for Climate Change (GLACC) network.

Doc Gerry was no flash-in-the-pan, no mouthpiece for whatever flavor-of-the-month issue attracts nongovernment organizations (NGOs). He and Batul were already hard at it in 2006, the year two gunmen hit Batul with 12 bullets, including one that him right between the eyes.

On May 22, 2010 a short poem appeared in a blog.
Many have died before you.
And after you.
Some more gruesome.
Only a few got justice.

It was Batul’s 4th death anniversary, and the first time for poet-blogger Ely Valendez to tackle “sensitive stuff.” Now Valendez will have two anniversaries to commemorate.

Political strategist Peter Sing remembers Ortega this way: "There are two things i can fault him with - his uncompromising st...and against corruption and his inexhaustible drive to protect and enhance the environment. Rest in peace Doc, but please guide those you have touched in Palawan to remain strong and pursue the dreams you share with them."

Ortega may have been a fiery commentator, but his oldest daughter, Mika, says Doc Gerry had publicly forgiven the murderer of his father.

“It’s not conventional but even when in deepest pain, my father would still choose to do the right thing,” she notes.

‘”And as his family, we follow suit. We will seek justice but we will forgive. My father would’ve wanted that,” Mika adds.


pet said...

it's sad i wasn't aware of it. i still have diffculty to find out when did this crime happen.

Paul Farol said...

Truly, a sad day for Palawan and Philippine Journalists.