The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) demands a thorough investigation into the death of Dennis Aranas—the state witness who confessed to being the lookout in the murder of Puerto Princesa broadcaster Gerardo Ortega—who was found dead in his cell at the Quezon provincial jail in Lucena City on Tuesday.
Aranas supposedly committed suicide, according to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
However, his widow, the Ortega family, and even the Lucena police suspect–and rightly so–this account.
The Lucena police have confirmed the following:
1.) The BJMP did not report Aranas’ death to them. It was his family who did so after his widow, Ma. Elena, received a call from jail authorities about his supposed suicide and told her his body had been transferred to a hospital.
2.) Aranas’ cell had already been scrubbed clean when police investigators arrived. Surely, the BJMP is aware that suicides are normally considered crimes and the scene of such incidents are to be preserved for evidence. This includes not moving the victim’s body until the scene is investigated.
In other words, the BJMP’s version stinks.
We demand that the BJMP detail at the Lucena jail be relieved to give way to a credible investigation and everyone found negligent or complicit in Aranas’ death be charged administratively and criminally.
While at it, we also demand an explanation from the Department of Justice why Aranas had been discharged from the Witness Protection Program and locked up at the provincial jail, where he was vulnerable to any attempt to silence him from testifying in the trial of those who ordered the Ortega murder.
While at it, perhaps Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should also take a closer look at the prosecution service.
While we see that there are some prosecutors in media killing cases who try to do their best despite all the problems and weaknesses in our judicial system, there are also those who seem to work against the resolution of cases.
In the Ortega murder, NUJP remains concerned about two things: the decision of the original panel of prosecutors to clear those identified by the killers as the masterminds, a decision that has since been overturned; and the flight from the country of former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Mario just days before warrants for their arrest were issued, which we strongly suspect was made possible because they had been warned beforehand.
It is 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 as well.
That this sorry state of affairs continues speaks volumes about government’s commitment to ensuring justice and good governance for our people.
Rowena C. Paraan