TWO Filipino brothers and politicians wanted in their country over the murder of a prominent anti-corruption crusader have been arrested in Phuket - three years after they first came to Thailand.
Share this article
Joel Reyes, the former governor of Palawan Island, and his brother Mario, a former town mayor, were arrested on Sunday and are now detained by the Crime Suppression Division (CSD). They were taken to attend a press conference about their arrest by the CSD yesterday
CSD commander Pol Maj Gen Akkaradej Pimolsri said the Reyes brothers, who were in a mining business, were accused by the Philippine authorities of hiring a gunman to kill an environmentalist campaigning against a mine in 2011. The brothers fled to Thailand in 2012, entering the country without passing the proper immigration process, he said.
A source from the Philippine National Police’s Task Force Usig, a tracker group assigned to catch high-profile fugitives, said the Reyes brothers had long been wanted for the slaying of Palawan environmentalist and journalist Dr Gerry Ortega.
The task force was in close coordination with Thai police, who are holding the brothers for eventual deportation, the source added.
Another source said the task force went to Thailand last year to look for the brothers. The arrest of the brothers was relayed to the PNP by the Thailand embassy, the source said.
But a ranking police official privy to the operation said the brothers were arrested and held by immigration authorities for overstaying in Thailand.
In 2012, President Benigno Aquino offered a 2 million pesos (Bt1.5 million) reward for the arrest of the so-called “Big Five” – the Reyes brothers, army Maj-General Jovito Palparan, Globe Asiatique developer Delfin Lee and former Dinagat Island Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr.
Ecleo is the only one of the five who has escaped arrest to date.
Ortega’s wife, Patty, said Philippine authorities had told her the brothers had been arrested. She added, however, they had no information on the circumstances behind the arrest.
Ortega’s daughter, Mica, said in a radio interview that the family was initially “stunned” and could not believe the news.
Mica said they felt relief that the alleged masterminds would stand trial.
Joel and Mario, the then mayor Coron in Palawan, fled the country sometime in March 2012, several months after they were indicted by the Department of Justice over Ortega’s murder. An arrest warrant was issued against them by the Palawan Regional Trial Court.
Ortega – a hard-hitting broadcaster and a known environmental crusader in Palawan – was shot dead by a lone assassin in the downtown area of the city on January 24, 2011. The assassin, Marlon Recamata, was arrested after a brief chase and later confessed to the crime.
Recamata’s arrest led to the arrest of several other suspects, who pointed to the Reyes brothers as the masterminds in the slaying. The brothers have sought to quash their arrest warrant before the Supreme Court and had managed to win an appeal in the Court of Appeals on their motion questioning the validity of the creation of a DOJ prosecutors’ panel that indicted them for murder.