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MANILA, Philippines -- President Benigno Aquino III admitted Wednesday government "shortcomings" in efforts to arrest three high profile fugitives: retired Army general Jovito Palparan, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes, and Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. of Dinagat Island.
"We had shortcomings, let's admit it," Aquino said in an interview with Bombo Radyo. "But I assure you that eventually, we will be able to arrest these people."
The former Palawan mayor and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes Jr., are accused of masterminding the murder of environmental activist and journalist Gerry Ortega.
Almost immediately after a Palawan trial court issued a warrant for their arrest, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said they were giving the brothers a few days to surrender. This was echoed soon after by Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who said the offer was in deference to the former governor’s status.
This set off a storm of protest from Ortega’s family and from media and environmental groups who said the grace period offered by the administration allowed the Reyes brothers to go into hiding.
A bounty of P1.55 million, raised by Ortega’s family mostly through private donations, has been offered for their arrest.
Palparan, who carries a P1 million bounty for his arrest, is wanted on charges connected to the abduction and disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
Ecleo, who heads the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association and who represented Dinagat Island in the House of Representatives, was convicted last month of murdering his wife.
The Philippine National Police has offered P150,000 for the arrest of Ecleo.