There is a cabinet in the house of slain freelance broadcaster Reynante “Rey” Cortes. It has been two months since his murder. The furniture remains unopened.
Cortes, 47, was shot outside the building in Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City after he had hosted an episode of his commentary program, “Engkwentro (Encounter),” at radio dyRB on July 22, 2021. Unlike in 2003 when he survived an attempt on his life, the radio blocktimer succumbed to gunshot wounds.
Chasing justice in the Philippines is no sprint. A marathon it is—only the one who is strong-willed could go on.
Cortes’ wife Kitt Matus-Cortes, a veteran broadcast journalist and news director of dySS Super Radyo, knows this very well. The marathon could well last over a decade, or as long as she is alive.
Kitt said she has yet to receive new updates from the special investigation task group (SITG), which was formed by the Cebu City Police Office to solve the crime.
“For me, the nice progress in the case given to me by SITG was when it said that it has three persons of interest and there is CCTV footage that still needs to be enhanced. But, so far, there have been no updates on such information,” she said in Cebuano.
The murder of Cortes came on Kitt’s 52nd birthday, and Kitt remembered what had happened before she received the sad news.
Kitt was at home, in a relaxed mood as it was her natal day.
She sat on the couch after a family member formed a cross on her forehead with blood from a freshly slain chicken. She later scanned the news feed of her Facebook account, and thought of sending a message to her husband about their plan of installing a new carpet in their home, but she did not do it.
Kitt was about to message him to hurry home as they would still have to go to church. She would also visit a parlor as she wanted a new color for her hair.
Kitt failed to send the message. Her smartphone rang. The wife of one of Cortes’ bodyguards called her through Facebook Messenger. The woman on the other line asked her if Kitt had already been informed. Flustered, she replied that no one had called her.
The woman then dropped a bomb. Rey had been shot.
“I didn’t believe it right away. I thought it was a prank for my birthday. But she told me that he had been shot, and he was hit in the arm,” Kitt said in Cebuano.
The plans for her special day crumbled. Kitt hurried to the hospital where her husband had been brought. Death and malevolence triumphed.
Kitt’s hope for justice is still fertile. One day, in God’s time, it will come, she said.
Cortes, to his enemies, was no saint. But to Kitt, he was a husband; to his children, he was a father.
The family suddenly became incomplete when his life was snuffed out by someone playing God who probably thought that pulling the trigger was a divine act.
Would the killing of journalists, regardless if they are doing freelance work or employed by a media outfit, stop in the future? As long as the culture of impunity continues on this side of the planet, the answer to that question, as the Bob Dylan song goes, is “blowing in the wind.”
Would Cortes be the last slain media worker in Cebu? Again, the answer is “blowing in the wind.”
There is a cabinet in Cortes’ house. It is his cabinet. Inside it are the clothing items he wore when anchoring the last episode of “Engkwentro.” These are the late radio commentator’s gray polo shirt, denim jeans and brown leather shoes.
Kitt said she has no courage to open the cabinet again. Not yet this time.
Opening her husband’s cabinet would unlock the floodgate of pain.
“Unta wa nay sama nakong inahan nga mag-inusara na lang sa pag-amuma ug pagpaningkamot nga makab-ot ang mga pangandoy sa akong mga anak. Ug unta wa nay sama kanako nga mag-antos sa way katapusang kasakit ug padayong magduhiraw pagpangitag hustisya sa kamatayon sa akong bana,” she said.
(I wish there would be no mother like me who would be left alone in taking care of children and working hard to achieve their aspirations. And I wish there would be no more person like me who would suffer endless pain and continue grappling with reality while seeking justice for my husband’s death.)