The International Federation of Journalists joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in calling for an investigation into suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of a witness in the murder case of radio broadcaster Gerardo Ortega. Gerardo Ortega, a commentator with dwAR, in the country’s Palawan province was murdered on January 24, 2011. Dennis Aranas, the state witness who confessed to being the lookout in the murder of Gerardo “Doc Gerry” Ortega, was found dead in his cell at the Quezon provincial jail in Lucena City on Tuesday, February 5.
According to the Bureau of Jail Management and
Penology (BJMP), Philippines, Aranas committed suicide.
However, in a statement, the NUJP said that Aranas’
widow, the Ortega family, and even some members of the Lucena police say the
circumstances of the death are suspicious. According to reports, Aranas’ death
was not reported to the police until around 7 hours after Aranas’ body had been
discovered. The report was not made by
the BJMP, but rather by the family of Aranas after his widow received a call
from jail authorities informing her that her husband committed suicide and the
body had been transferred to a local hospital.
By the time police investigators arrived at the cell
where Aranas’ body was found, it had been scrubbed clean.
In their statement, the NUJP said that it was clear “that
wealth and influence are being brought to bear to thwart the quest for justice
in the Ortega murder, as in many other cases, not only of media killings but
all other extrajudicial killings.”
impunity surrounding the case became evident last year after former
Palawan governor Joel Reyes managed to flee the Philippines on a fake passport
after a regional court ordered his arrest in connection
with Ortega’s murder.
“The murder of witnesses to crimes committed against members
of the media reflects a disturbing pattern in the Philippines” said IFJ Asia
Pacific Director, Jacqueline Park.
The IFJ joins the NUJP in calling for an independent
investigation to take place into the death.
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