Witness death in Philippine case raises alarm



Murder suspects Dennis Aranas (L) and Marlon Recamata arrive at the Department of Justice, Manila for the preliminary investigation of the murder case of radio broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega in this February 2011 file photo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—A witness in the murder of a prominent Philippine environmentalist has died in prison under mysterious circumstances, police said Wednesday, as his relatives raised fears of foul play.

Relatives alerted police Tuesday about the death of the witness, Dennis Aranas, who was detained at a jail in Lucena, capital of Quezon province, said Chief Inspector Job de Mesa.

Aranas was a key government witness to the January 2011 shooting death of journalist and environmental activist Gerry Ortega. The state alleges the murder was plotted by a politician who is believed to have fled abroad.

“They (jail officials) told us he (Aranas) had committed suicide, but when we went there to investigate, the body had been taken to the morgue,” said de Mesa, police chief of Lucena city.

The prison director and jail guards are under investigation for failing to report the death and removing the body, de Mesa added.

The prisoner who shared the jail cell with the dead man was also being questioned, he added.

Ortega’s family suggested the witness could have been silenced to weaken the murder case, and also demanded a police inquiry.

“We are just worried because as witnesses die, the case may weaken in the long run,” it said in a statement.

Aranas was the second state witness to die, the family added.

It likened the deaths to the murders of several witnesses to the 2009 massacre of 58 people in the southern province of Maguindanao.

The government alleges Joel Reyes, former governor of the island province of Palawan, and his brother Mario had plotted the murder of Ortega, a local critic.

The environmentalist’s daughter Michaella Ortega told AFP a man accused of buying the gun used in the Ortega shooting died of liver disease last year.

Aranas had been arrested as an accomplice, but later agreed to testify that he served as a lookout while a gunman shot Ortega, the Ortega family said.

Prison officials told police Aranas was found dead in his cell Tuesday with a shoulder bag strap around his neck, de Mesa said.

The dead man’s family challenged this account and demanded an autopsy, he added.

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  • ApoLapullapu

    The Prosecutors had been negligent in protecting their witnesses.  And probably, the DOJ did not care if the case will be quashed.

    • koolkid_inthehouse

      Justice system Philippine style. Sucks!!

      • mfdo

         throw the prison officials instantly and investigate what failed .. instead of letting the suspects enjoy all benefits wheil the dead man’s family has to press charges ..

        oh, wait, that will never happen .. when even murder suspects are allowed to roam free for years before being asked to surrender!!! the whole legal system sucks ..

  • KonsensyaNgBayan

    DOJ Justice Secretary Leila de Lima sana’y mabigyan ninyo ng oras at panahon ang kasong ito bago maubos ang mga witnesses. Justice for “Doc” Gerry Ortega and Dennis Aranas. Investigate all Lucena Jail personnels and even the Local Government Officials. Political Financial support kapalit ng buhay ni Aranas, greed and power are easily preyed with money. 

  • disqus_EWrSdjV1nv

    old story, new characters. this version is not the end.

  • http://pedestrianobserver.blogspot.com/ Political Jaywalker

    Seems like the news is half-baked again failing to mention that the police wants the family of Aranas to shoulder the cost of autopsy.

    This is what we can expect to happen when you have the police at the mercy and graciousness of the trapos, they tend to be like a fox in a chicken coop. Top that with a screwed investigating system where the families are required to shoulder the cost of the autopsy when it should be shouldered by the government especially when the the witness died in their custody.

    • koolkid_inthehouse

      From Atimonan 13 investigation to this again?  Does Purisima can’t figure out what’s going on in the Police force?  Is he blind and deaf?

    • Jane Tan

      Actually, the state witness program makes them an easier target – trapped in an enclosed area with nowhere to go and accessible by anyone? I’d prefer a zombie apocalypse than such a situation.

  • koolkid_inthehouse

    What else is new?  You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure this one.  Somebody got paid to do the job.  Again why the police cover up? 

  • julieboy


  • Jane Tan

    It seems rather stupid that practically anyone has access to a key state witness. If you idiots over there really considered him important, you’d limit the number of people who has access to him and put him in solitary. Have people who visit him log-in or have a cctv camera trained on him. Retarded. If even state witnesses can’t be sure of their lives, how will you expect future witnesses to testify?

    • vince_bugaboo

      i agree with you on all counts, especially with your judgement of them as idiots and retarded. 

  • http://www.dafk.net/what/ Kilabot ng mga Balahibo

    Is it possibly be because you put state witnesses where you put criminals and suspects too?


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/EA7TIY7PYXEU5UOXG2K5CY5F64 Eric

    After Atimonan, the jail officials still had the gall to cover this up. The money must really be good.

  • Love God

    Real culprits were able to escape through proper channel acquiring genuine passports and using the country’s premier airport. 

    They were able to influence the lower courts and investigating agencies. So the witness getting killed one by one is no surprise!

  • mfdo

    what’s new ? yes, it is FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES !! the only country where cops are powerless to even enforce the law over prison officials !!! 

    • Jane Tan

      Actually, we’re in-line with Mexico in that respect. But, atleast in Mexico they make their own product (drugs, etc), as opposed to the Philippines where they take the people’s money.

  • eirons1043

    Quezon Province is in the limelight coz of killings with chief suspect its police force either as principals or accomplice.  Lets call it straight – the killing of the witness under police custody is the police work assisted by the jail guards period. The answers will be “we are innocent until proven otherwise’, and therefore, bail muna or held to headquarters. Pres. Noy please wake up you are the chief executive and commander in chief of the AFP and PNP pinaiikutan ka lang. Palitan mo na si Voltaire at lahat ng Pulis sa Lucena, Atimonan, Batangas, Puerto Princesa, at iba pang kagaya.

  • vince_bugaboo

     If the stupid authorities can’t even protect the life of an important state witness from the Reyes brothers, the alleged plotters of Ortega’s murder, who are supposedly on the run, how can we expect these morons (police) to catch them? 

  • koolkid_inthehouse

    The same cops who investigated the Atimonan massacre and you still trust them that they have the ability to investigate this murder?  They’ll never find out who owns the bag strap to kill Aranas.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJTH3SHQU3B4TCUVRH2UXZCJDY Balahura

    Tapos sasabihin politically motivated ang pag akusa sa dating gob et al…. ayun lumabas na ang totoong ebidensiya kung sino talaga ang pumatay!……Madam Leila wala bang magawa na ang office mo para sundutin ang pwet ng mga Huwes talaga po bang mabagal ang pagdinig sa kaso o nagbabagal bagalan lang tayo para may pumasok sa nakaw na salapi?

    • Jane Tan

      Amf baka naman kahit nakatira na ang state witness sa office ni Leila patay parin ang dating niyan.

  • bagombong

    This police who are managing the prison cell must be under the paid list of the Reyes other wise these will not happened. They are going to eliminate all the witnesses, law enforcer knows this, they are not stupid as you think but with that money involved, they can pay even the law, that is what we are as a Filipino, trademark na yan ng sistema natin. 

    • bornok0930

      labas na po ang pnp sa witness protection. usually doj ang humahawak ng wpp. namatay ang witness sa custody ng jail hindi sa police station. bakit panay pulis sinisisi. maghintay na lang tayo sa investigation kung talagang nag suicide o my foul play. wag puro speculate, di naman alam ang sinasabi.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/GUVVKS4SPGK5S5C5ZR4D2N2M5I anak ng sultan


  • Jane Tan

    Atleast in Mexico, when the cops and the government officials are in on it, they still make their own product and sell it. In the Philippines, they steal the people’s money. I’m not sure how we’re ranked with respect to Mexico, but I’d be astounded if we’re higher than them.

  • boi skater

    Clearly he was killed, and the police was either in on it or
    looked the other way. This is justice Philippine style – silence a witness for
    good. Also, a witness under police protection must be given a much safer cell than this (solitary and monitored) if the authorities are really serious in protecting them. The system is lacking and the authorities are inept and/or corrupt.

  • Rovingmoron

    A dead man tells no tales. Clear and simple. He could have been put under the Witness Protection Program.

  • Victor Carl

    Not surprisingly. It’s a normal anomaly in the PNP.

  • jolly_baby

    Actually there is something wrong on how we handle witnesses. For example for other crimes, it is required for a witness to testify upfront.. who would do that? Lot is at stake here. Because of that many crimes were just scrapped. There should be a way for witnesses to tell their stories without getting identified. If the law says that witnesses should be identifiable, then it is totally wrong.

  • $37644997

    If you live by the sword,you die by the sword
    If you live by the gun you’re a son of gun
    Life has become so cheap that it can be bought with a price
    Silence is golden that’s what people say so they have to silenced one and lay 6 ft. under the ground
    Blood is thicker than water and it’s true but blood money is better and that’s what others say.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PJTH3SHQU3B4TCUVRH2UXZCJDY Balahura

    A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser

  • jinx

    “…Joel Reyes, former governor of the island province of Palawan, and his brother Mario had plotted the murder of Ortega…”

    While these two brothers are still alive, they will continue to kill innocent victims. With lots of money in their possession, they will continue to bribe corrupt police and politicians and exploit our weak justice system.  The only solution to stop such madness is to kill these brothers, literally.  Yes, kill these motherfking criminals.  Otherwise, we’re nowhere to solving high profile cases, just like the one in Maguindanao.

  • batangpaslit

    kaya nga kung hindi naratrat si Jueteng Lord kasma ang close-in bodyguard na si Col Consumisyon at ang pulis nia at sundalo, hindi matablan ng kaso ‘yon
    sa loob ng kulunagan, birharin lang nila ang kasamahan nilang maging state witness

  • Guest

    This is the reason why the top two key witnesses of Kuratong Baleleng sought asylum in Canada. Both were police officers who could not in good conscience keep quiet about what Panfilo Lacson did. But the conditions under witness protection program were dire. State budget was limited. Risk to life and limb constant. And no future to speak of. No just for the key witnesses but also for their respective families.

    The same fate awaits the key witnesses of the Atimonan Quezon Rub-Out. Given how Sen. Panfilo Lacson publicly spoke for Marantan et al repeatedly, it’s just a matter of time before the key witnesses disappear into thin air, or recant or seek asylum abroad altogether. If Leila de Lima is now forced to stick to the Shoot-Out story as opposed to Rub-Out in the NBI’s official report, despite what she said during her ocular inspection of the crime scene in Quezon, ano pa ang laban ng mga key witnesses? Kung si Leila de Lima tumiklop na, mga pangkaraniwang taong key witnesses pa kaya.

    Tapos na ang boksing. Lalaya uli si Marantan. It’s just a matter of time.

    • vince_bugaboo

      “Tapos na ang boksing. Lalaya uli si Marantan. It’s just a matter of time.”

      it will be just a matter of a witness or witnesses death, kamo. lol

      • Guest

        Including that, too.

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