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Gunman in Gerry Ortega slay sentenced to life imprisonment

(Updated 8:05 p.m.) More than two years after the crime, the confessed gunman in the killing of broadcaster-environmentalist Gerry Ortega was sentenced to life imprisonment Tuesday. The Puerto Princesa City Regional Trial Court handed down the sentence to Marlon Recamata, who pleaded guilty for the crime, Prosecutor General Claro Arellano said. "The gunman pleaded guilty and the prosecution presented evidence to determine the penalty," Arellano said. "The court this afternoon sentenced gunman to a penalty of reclusion perpetua." Reclusion perpetua carries with it a prison term of at least 20 years and one day and 40 years at most. A report by radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate James Viernes said the verdict was handed down around 3 p.m. Arellano is confident Recamata's guilty plea will strengthen their case against the alleged mastermind in Ortega's killing, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes. Asked how it would affect the murder charge against Reyes as well as his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, Arellano told GMA News Online: "Lalakas ang case vs Joel Reyes and the other accused." He did not elaborate. The Reyes brothers, who both denied the accusation and said their political enemies were behind the charges, went into hiding when a second Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors came out with a ruling finding probable cause to charge them with murder. This was after the first panel cleared the Reyes brothers from the charges for lack of evidence. In the re-investigation, however, the second panel considered additional evidence presented by Ortega's daughter, Michaella, including documents containing supposed text messages between Joel Reyes and another suspect, Rodolfo Edrad Jr., from December 2010 to January 24, 2011, the day Ortega was gunned down. Another piece of evidence was a compact disc containing recordings of Ortega's radio commentaries against the former governor. Junjun Bumar, another suspect, had earlier admitted organizing the assassination squad that killed Ortega, and pointed to Joel Reyes as the alleged mastermind. Ortega's death was linked to his hard-hitting radio commentaries on illegal mining activities in the island province. Aside from being a broadcaster, Ortega was also a prominent civic leader and veterinarian who once headed Palawan's famous crocodile farm in Puerto Princesa City. — BM/KBK, GMA News