PRESS STATEMENT FOR THE 7th YEAR DEATH ANNIVERSARY OF DR. GERRY ORTEGA
The Center for Environmental Concerns- Philippines (CEC) commemorates today the 7th death anniversary of Dr. Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega, who is known as a valiant journalist, environmentalist and a staunch critic of the Malampaya Natural Gas Field Project fund controversy in Palawan. Seven years since the murder of Doc Gerry, the environmental movement together with his family continue the pursuit for justice and the struggle for environmental concerns inspired by his legacy.
Doc Gerry, as he was fondly known, was a wildlife veterinarian, a radio commentator, and a dedicated environmental activist. He opposed corrupt, ecologically-harmful and anti-people programs in Palawan. He was also remembered for his advocacies on good governance, fought for the rights and welfare of Palawan’s indigenous peoples and other grassroots communities, particularly, on the issue of the controversial Malampaya Natural Gas Project revenues.
Earlier this month, Palawan ex-governor Joel Reyes, the principal mastermind behind Dr. Ortega’s murder was released through the Court of Appeals (CA) decision stating the arrest warrant issued against former governor was voided because there was no evidence presented in the court. This clearly reflects the injustice and impartial ruling on cases where government officials and local elites such as Reyes are engaged. This is also an affirmation on the increasing impunity in the country under the Duterte regime where justice for human rights and environmental defenders is elusive.
According to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, there are already 47 enviroment-related killings recorded under the Duterte administration. Most of the killings are related to extractive industries such as mining, logging and large-scale agricultural plantations. The number excludes trumped-up charges, illegal arrests, and harassments of environmental defenders. One recent case is the arrest of Defend Ilocos Regional Coordinator Sherwin De Vera.
Today, we pay tribute to an individual who had shown courage to seek for the truth for the environment, the poor and the marginalized. Dr. Ortega’s advocacies will always be an inspiration to others. His legacy will forever be a source of pride not only to his fellow Palaweños, but to the Filipino people.
Dr. Gerry Ortega was given a posthumous award by the Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan in 2011. Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan (GBK) is a biennial award giving body by the CEC that honors unsung heroes/heroines who have defended the environment and people’s rights. Replicating Doc Gerry’s values, a new set of environmental heroes will be recognized again on March 2018 for the 5th Gawad Bayani ng Kalikasan.
Dr. Ortega’s willingness to serve the people has been a remarkable attribute of a true environmental hero, along with those who persistently fight for peoples’ rights and serve for the common good.
As we remember the environmental heroism of Dr. Gerry Ortega, we demand the Duterte administration to hold accountable the persons involved in the case and ensure justice will be served. We also demand Duterte’s administration to stop the culture of impunity, the killings, threats and harassments by state forces to human rights and environmental defenders in the country pursuing genuine social change and protection of the environment.
Justice for Dr. Gerry Ortega!
Justice for all the victims of environmental killings and human rights violations!
Defend environmental defenders!