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Palawan court convicts aide of ex-governor Reyes in Gerry Ortega murder

One of the most popular images of the late Doc Gerry Ortega.
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - A close aide for many years of former governor Joel Reyes was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a Palawan court Monday for the 2011 murder of environmentalist-broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega, in a case that had earlier sent the ex-governor and his brother Mario into hiding for two years before being captured in September 2015.

Branch 52 of the Palawan Regional Trial Court sentenced Arturo "Nonoy" Regalado to reclusion perpetua. He is to be immediately transferred immediately to Iwahig Penal Colony, according to Ortega's daughter Michaella, who had earlier submitted to the court additional evidence in the victim's family's effort to hold the Reyes brothers accountable for the assassination.

Regalado was the close-in aide and right hand of Joel T. Reyes for a long time and was employed by the provincial government in the office of the then governor, Michaella added. 

The case against the Reyes brothers was delayed by their having gone into hiding, until their capture last September. The Supreme Court ordered the Palawan court in January this year to proceed with Reyes' trial for Ortega's murder.

The parties have scheduled a presentation of witnesses on March 15, 21 and 22.

Regalado had also gone into hiding after the court issued an arrest warrant against him, but he surrendered to authorities in 2012.

"He gave himself up to the combined team of City PNP operatives and members of the Special Operations Group somewhere in Malate last night (Wednesday) around 11.30 pm," then- Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn was quoted telling reporters on April 12 by the Justice for Gerry Ortega movement on its Facebook post.

The confessed gunman, Marlon Recamata, earlier pleaded guilty and was sentenced to reclusion perpetua in 2013.

Reyes and his brother Mario, the former mayor of Coron town, have both denied ordering Ortega's killing and blamed their political rivals for framing them.

They were able to fly abroad  after a second Department of Justice panel, considering additional evidence presented by Ortega's daughter Michaella, found probable cause to charge them with murder.  An earlier panel had cleared them for lack of evidence.