MANILA, Philippines – Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas said Friday that an autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the remains of a suspect to the killing of Palawan environmentalist and journalist Gerry Ortega showed the cause of his death to be “asphyxia by hanging”.
Despite the results, however, Roxas still ordered an investigation for possible foul play.
The report submitted to Roxas noted that Dennis Aranas had expressed intention of killing himself after being distraught over his removal from the Witness Protection Program.
Aranas, 37 was found by fellow inmates hanging from the ceiling with a shoulder bag strap around his neck around 10 a.m. inside their cell at the Quezon District Jail in Lucena City. Aranas had been in jail since June 29, 2012 for murder and frustrated murder.
Roxas ordered a thorough investigation into the death of Aranas, who was considered a vital witness in the killing of Ortega in Puerto Princesa City in January 2011. The family of Ortega raised suspicions that Aranas could have been murdered in jail.
“Please be informed that according to the autopsy report conducted by Antonio Vertido, Medico Legal Officer, NBI, the cause of death of inmate Dennis Aranas is asphyxia by hanging,” Chief Superintendent Diony Mamaril, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said in his report.
Roxas, however, assured Aranas’ family that the investigation would continue.
Part of the investigation, Roxas said, would look into why the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) was not given the chance to examine the area where Aranas was found dead.
“Kung may foul play at cover-up sangkot ang sinumang tauhan ng BJMP, agad kong ipag-uutos ang pagsasampa ng kaukulang kaso laban sa mga ito at ang pagtatanggal sa kanila sa tungkulin. Hindi natin palalampasin ang anumang kalokohan, dahil hindi ito tugma sa Matuwid na Daan,” he said.
Mamaril said the warden of Quezon District Jail and the BJMP have been directed to explain the significant delay in the submission of reports and other concerns in the handling of the case, adding that CIDG-Quezon, along with NBI, will continue with the investigation.
In a separate report submitted by the Quezon District Jail, investigator Senior Jail Officer 3 Richard Benedictor said Aranas hinted of killing himself a day before his death allegedly due to frustrations over his removal from the WPP which deprived his family of financial support from the government.
Manuel Luis Ilao, an inmate, alleged that Aranas told him around 3 p.m. Monday that he “can’t be detained any longer because the financial support of the DOJ given to him for being under the witness protection program was stopped and his family was suffering from hunger.”
“He also told of his problem regarding his live-in partner who was reportedly frequently seen with another man. He saw Dennis crying while narrating his problem,” Benedictor said.
The report said Aranas even pawned his electric fan for P300 to one Rolando Desembrana, but the money was lost.
“Out of frustration, Dennis [Aranas] said, ‘P**inang buhay ito napakamalas talaga. Mabuti pang magpakamatay na,’” Benedictor said in his report.