MANILA, Philippines — Not satisfied with the ‘suicide’ theory on the death of the self-confessed look-out turned state witness Dennis Aranas who was found lifeless at the Quezon provincial jail in Lucena City last Tuesday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines urged the government to dig more and go deeper into the case.
Rowena Paraan, Secretary General of the NUJP said the statement of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) that Aranas committed suicide is “dubious” and “stinks.”
For one, Paraan said, the BJMP did not immediately report Aranas’ death to the police. “It was his (Aranas) 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,” Paraan said.
The NUJP exec said suicides are normally considered crimes and the scene of such incidents are to be preserved for evidence until the scene is investigated but Aranas’ cell was allegedly been scrubbed clean when police investigators arrived.
“(For this) 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,” Paraan appealed to the government.
The Department of Interior and Local Government on Friday said Aranas, who is a self-confessed co-conspirator on the murder of Puerto Princesa broadcaster Gerardo Ortega in 2011, committed suicide by tying his neck with a piece of strap inside his prison cell.
Secretary Mar Roxas, using the National Bureau of Investigation autopsy reports as basis, said Aranas died due to asphyxiation.
Aranas was allegedly distraught when he learned he was removed from the government Witness Protection Program. Sec. Leila de Lima earlier explained that prosecutors found his testimony was immaterial to the slay case the reason why he is removed from the government protection program.
De Lima assured that even with the death of Aranas, the murder case of Ortega remains strong as there are other credible witnesses on their sides.
The NUJP urged Secretary de Lima to 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,” Paraan said.
In the Ortega murder, the NUJP’s concern remains on two things: (1) 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 (2) 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 the NUJP strongly suspect was made possible because they had been warned beforehand.
The NUJP appealed to the government to go deeper and heed their quest for justice in the Ortega murder, as in many other cases, not only of media killings but all other extrajudicial killings as well.