Ortega, host of a talk show on local radio station DWAR, was shot in the back of the head as he was shopping in a Puerto Princesa City clothing store shortly after his morning broadcast, according to local and international news reports. Ortega, 47, had recently received death threats from an unknown source, according to The Associated Press. The journalist had openly criticized local officials accused of corruption and had opposed provincial mining projects, news reports said.
In a departure from most journalist murder investigations in the Philippines, police moved quickly in the case, arresting Marlon Recamata, the alleged gunman, and several suspected accomplices. Recamata pleaded guilty in February 2011 and was sentenced to life in prison in May 2013. Recamata told the court he was paid the equivalent of US$250 for the slaying, according to news reports and the victim's family.
An accomplice, Rodolfo Edrad, identified ex-Palawan provincial governor, Joel Reyes, and his brother, Marjo Reyes, former mayor of a small resort town, as having ordered the murder in retaliation for Ortega's reporting on local mining operations. In April 2013, an appellate court blocked efforts by the Department of Justice to arrest the Reyeses, saying the department was over-reaching, according to news reports. While the department appealed, the Reyeses reportedly fled.
The case has been marred in other respects. In February 2013, an accomplice who became a prosecution witness was found dead in his prison cell in Lucena City, Quezon. Prison authorities said Dennis Aranas had hanged himself, but an investigation by the public attorney's office found fingernail marks and other injuries that indicated he had been attacked.