IFJ calls for an investigation into the suspicious death of Ortega murder witness

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.”

The

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.

For

further information contact IFJ

Asia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950

The

IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

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the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

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the IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific