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. Forfurther information contact IFJAsia-Pacific on +61 2 9333 0950TheIFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countriesFindthe IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacificFindthe IFJ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/IFJAsiaPacific