"Doc Gerry" Ortega, DVM
|Project Director of
|Member of the
Provincial Board of Palawan
|Director of the
Crocodile Farming Institute
August 28, 1963|
|Died||24 January 2011
Barangay San Pedro,
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
|Spouse(s)||Patria Gloria "Patty"
Innocencio - Ortega
|Relations||Rafael “Totoy" Ortega
|Alma mater||Gregorio Araneta University Foundation|
|Occupation||Environmental Activist, Journalist, former Politician|
|Profession||Doctor of Veterinary Medicine|
Gerardo Valeriano Ortega DVM (August 28, 1963 – January 24, 2011), better known simply as "Doc Gerry" or "Ka Gerry", was a Filipino journalist, veterinarian, politician, environmental activist, and community organizer best known for his work to promote crocodile farming in the Philippines, and for his advocacy against mining on the island of Palawan. Ortega has often been lauded as a hero of the Philippine Environment since he was assassinated on January 24, 2011, allegedly due to his anti-mining advocacy.
- 1 Personal life and education
- 2 Crocodile farming pioneer (1988-2001)
- 3 Entering politics (2001-2004)
- 4 Environmental Advocacy and Community Organizing (2004-2011)
- 5 Journalism (2004-2011)
- 6 The "Ten Million Signatures for the Banning of Mining in Palawan" campaign
- 7 Assassination
- 8 Legacy
- 9 References
Personal life and education
Doc Gerry was born on August 28, 1963, the son of Rafael “Totoy" Ortega, who was the Municipal Mayor of Aborlan, in the island province of Palawan. He earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the Gregorio Araneta University Foundation near Manila. In 1988 he married Patria Gloria "Patty" Innocencio in a church wedding in Bulacan. They later had five children. The eldest, Mika Ortega, worked as an Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) Officer of ABS-CBN Foundation's Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig.
Crocodile farming pioneer (1988-2001)
In 1988 Ortega began working at the Crocodile Farming Institute (since renamed the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center but still known widely and referred to below as the Crocodile Farm or CFI) in Irawan, Puerto Princesa, Palawan. In 1989, he became the institute's director.
At the time, many thought the Crocodile Farm project, which was run by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, would never succeed. But Ortega and his team made it not only viable but globally known. Ortega and his team at the CFI also received considerable media attention caught the largest saltwater crocodile in the country.
In 1993 the CFI came up with the idea of farming out their crocodiles. The idea sparked considerable interest, and over 80 potential crocodile farmers applied. Nineteen of these were in attendance on February 1 to 3, 1999, when Ortega hosted the “Orientation on the Establishment of Crocodile Farms in the Philippines.” After screening applicants, the CFI gave 6 crocodile farmers their first crocodiles in early 2000. Ortega's initiative thus represented the birth of the crocodile industry in the Philippines.
Entering politics (2001-2004)
Ortega resigned from his post at Crocodile Farm in time to run for a position in the Provincial Board of Palawan during the elections of 2001. He won and held that post until 2004.
It was during this time that Ortega is said to have first gained access to "information and documents about widespread corruption in the provincial government of Palawan." As a result, Ortega became "the foremost critic of then Governor Mario Joel T. Reyes."
In 2004, Ortega ran for Governor of Palawan, under a good governance platform. He lost. Governor Mario Joel T. Reyes was declared the winner.
Environmental Advocacy and Community Organizing (2004-2011)
Uncertain about their future career, given the political and economic situation in the Philippines, he and his wife Patty briefly considered taking a job abroad.
Sometime later that year, the ABS-CBN Foundation recruited Ortega to become project director of Bantay Kalikasan-Palawan.
In his capacity as project director of Bantay Kalikasan-Palawan, Ortega spearheaded the establishment of five community-based sustainable tourism sites operated by the community and for the community.
- “All of these are the project of the community-based sustainable tourism where the support is the community and 100 percent of the profits go to the community. All of the employees, managers, and all of the workers are from the community.”
- “We do not have to destroy the environment for us to benefit from it.... We just need to take care of it so we can invite guests for them to see the natural beauty of our environment so that our countrymen will have opportunities from that. As we always say — kung may pakialam, may pakinabang.” (Whomever contributes benefits.)
The five eco-tourism projects spearheaded by Bantay-Kalikasan Palawan under Dr. Ortega are:
- the Bacungan River Cruise;
- Snorkeling in Honda Bay and island-hopping at the Pambato Reef Dalubkaragatan;
- Dolphin- and Whale-watching in Puerto Princesa Bay;
- Firefly watching on the Iwahig River; and
- Ugong Rock Rock Climb and Zip Line.
At this time, Ortega also began serving as an anchor/commentator in a number of radio stations in Palawan, allowing him to promote his environmental advocacy and continue his anti-corruption campaign.
By late 2009, Ortega had begun regularly receiving death threats because of the hard-hitting nature of his radio programs, at one point prompting the family to get a bodyguard for him. Puerto Princesa City Former Mayor Edward Hagedorn revealed that Ortega was especially concerned when at one point the threats extended to his daughters.
The "Ten Million Signatures for the Banning of Mining in Palawan" campaign
In January 2011, Ortega, together with Bantay Kalikasan decided to launch a broad campaign against mining in Palawan, in response to the approval of large scale mining by the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development(PCSD) the month before.
Ortega was getting ready to travel to Manila for the launching of the Ten Million Signatures Campaign for the banning of mining operations in the province of Palawan when he was assassinated.
At around 10:30 in the morning of January 24, 2011, Ortega had just finished broadcasting on his morning show "Ramatak" for Radyo Mo Nationwide (RMN)'s Palawan station dwAR-FM, and was supposed to prepare for a scheduled journey to Manila to promote the Ten Million Signatures campaign. He stopped at an "Ukay Ukay" (used clothing) Thrift store in Barangay San Pedro, near the veterinary clinic he shared with his wife Patty. 
Recamata originally claimed that the motivation for the killing was simply robbery, but numerous parties including the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn, and ABS CBN's Bantay Kalikasan, through its head Gina Lopez, pointed out that this was unlikely, given the way the murder was conducted, the fact that Ortega did not present himself as someone likely to be worth robbing. Recamata also implicated three others in his statements: Rodolfo O. Edrad Jr., Dennis C. Aranas, and Armando R. Noel. Recamata pleaded guilty to murder charges on Feb. 11, 2011. The case against him is being heard at the Puerto Princesa trial court.
A second suspect, Percival Lecias, was invited for questioning by the Puerto Princesa office of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) the day after, on January 25, 2011.
Dennis Aranas was arrested in Coron, Palawan three days after the assassination, on Jan. 28, 2011. He also confessed to the crime at the Puerto Princesa Police Office.
Rodolfo Edrad Jr. surrendered to Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn in Lucena, Quezon on Feb. 5, 2011, and Hagedorn brought him to the National Bureau of Investigation NBI headquarters in Manila. Armando Noel surrendered to the NBI at their Taft Avenue headquarters on Feb. 10, 2011. Both Edrad and Noel Confessed to the crime before the NBI.
Another suspect, Edwin Arandia gave himself up on Feb. 27, 2011, to Fr. Robert Reyes who accompanied him to the NBI.
The police found the .45 caliber pistol Recamata had allegedly used to kill Ortega in a trash bin along the road, where Recamata had thrown it while trying to escape. Upon examination, it was found to be registered to former Palawan provincial administrator Romeo M. Seratubias. A man named Arturo Regalado later surrendered to the authorities, claiming he had purchased the gun from Seratubias.
News reports say that in the confession Edrad gave the NBI in Manila, he said he was a former bodyguard of former Marinduque Governor Jose Antonio N. Carrion and former Palawan Governor Mario Joel T. Reyes. The reports said that Edrad implicated both Governor Reyes and Governor Carrion for the assassination. The reports also say Edrad additionally implicated former Coron, Palawan Mayor Mario T. Reyes Jr., and Arturo Regalado, the man who bought the gun from Atty. Seratubias.
Governor Reyes later denied even having ever hired Edrad as a security aide, while Governor Carrion, who said Carrion was indeed a former security aide, denied ever talking to Edrad about any plot.
Dismissal of charges
In a resolution dated June 8, 2011 panel of prosecutors from the Philippines' Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed criminal charges filed against former Marinduque Governor Jose Antonio N. Carrion, former Palawan Gov. Mario Joel T. Reyes, former Palawan Mayor Mario T. Reyes, Atty Romeo Serratubias, Arturo Regalado, and Percival B. Lecias, citing "insufficiency of evidence".
The same resolution said that there was probable cause to charge Rodolfo Edrad Jr., Armando Noel, Dennis Aranas, Arwin Arandia with murder.
On July 1, 2011, Patty Ortega filed a 47-page motion for reconsideration at the Department of Justice, asking the investigating panel to recommend that charges be filed against Reyes and the five others who had been absolved by the panel, arguing that those she alleged to be the "masterminds and principals" behind the killing ought to be charged, not just the ones who were charged, whom she referred to as "pawns whose participation in the murder were merely at best as accessories."
Reversal of Dismissal of Charges
However, on March 13, 2012, the Department of Justice has reversed its former decision of dismissing the cases against Governor Joel Reyes, Mayor Mario Reyes, Romeo Seratubias, Arturo Regalado, and Percival Lecias and ordered the filing of murder charges against them on the death of Ortega after the reviewing the motion for reconsideration filed by Ortega's wife the previous year and taking into account the new evidences presented there. Only former Governor Jose Carreon was not included in the charges due to insufficiency of evidence.
- Inspired by plans originally conceived by Dr. Ortega, local media units in Palawan, through the Alyansa ng Panlalawigang Mamamahayag Inc. (APAMAI) and the local chapter of the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines (NUJP), launched a savings and loan fund project for local their members on July 24, 2011.
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- Local media sets up loan and savings fund for members 2011-07-25 Philippine Information Agency-Palawan http://www.pia.gov.ph/?m=1&t=1&id=45276