PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – Marlon Recamata, the triggerman in the Gerry Ortega murder case, is facing a new murder case in Quezon province that could land him in a similar jail facility where his companion, Dennis Aranas, died under mysterious circumstances.
Aranas’ death was labeled a suicide by the National Bureau of Investigation but Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta on Sunday told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that Aranas sustained bruises, swelling and contusions that could indicate he was a victim of foul play.
“Have you seen someone who had undergone (fraternity) hazing rites? That’s how it looked like,” said Acosta after a PAO forensic doctor ran a re-examination of Aranas’ body on Sunday noon at a morgue in San Pablo City.
Acosta said Aranas sustained bruises in the arms and legs and wounds in his mouth.
Asked what their findings meant, “eh, di binugbog s’ya (clearly, he was mauled),” said Acosta, who was interviewed by phone as she was in Funeraria Popular in San Pablo City, Laguna where Aranas’ body was lodged.
Aranas, 37, was tagged as a lookout in the death of Palawan environmentalist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega in 2010. He was found hanging inside his detention cell at the district jail in Lucena City in Quezon on Feb. 5.
But Aranas’ family doubted the findings of the NBI autopsy that he died of “asphyxia by hanging” and sought assistance from PAO.
According to Acosta, Aranas’ family took pictures of the body immediately after he died.
“I did not immediately show the pictures to our forensic doctor. When he stepped out of the examination room, he said he too saw the bruises on Aranas’ body as shown on the pictures,” Acosta said.
She said her office would file a report to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas to find out who were behind Aranas’ death.
But Chief Superintendent Serafin Barretto Jr., director of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon), questioned PAO’s jurisdiction to examine the body.
“That’s not their job. Their role is to attend to legal matters,” said Barretto, who stood by the NBI’s report that Aranas killed himself.
Aranas was “still breathing” when found but died in a hospital after a few hours, he said. He said the NBI in Lucena City conducted an autopsy that same day before the body was released to the family.
Recamata, on the other hand, is being summoned to face inquest proceedings in a murder case before the sala of Judge Maria May Zafranco-Redor of the Regional Trial Court in Pagbilao, Quezon. The judge has set the hearing on March 11 this year, under case docket number 10492-09, based on the summon that was served on Recamata at the Puerto Princesa police headquarters where he has been jailed for the last two years.
A Philippine Daily Inquirer source in the Puerto Princesa police said the confessed hitman has expressed fears for his life with his planned transfer to another prison facility. Recamata is scared that he will end up like Aranas in the Lucena City jail, according to the source, who asked not to be named for not having been authorized to speak on behalf of Recamata.
He added that Recamata, who has been acting as the “mayor” (cell leader) among inmates in the jail facility, has been content awaiting his judgment after confessing his role as gunman in the Jan. 24, 2011 killing of Palawan journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega.
“(Recamata) believes his safe is assured if he remains in this jail,” said the source.
Aranas was earlier released from the witness protection program because of a separate arrest warrant that landed him in the Lucena jail. Authorities last week claimed he committed suicide, his body reportedly found hanging by a luggage strap wrapped around his neck.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona, the Senate blue ribbon chairman, meanwhile, warned the Department of Justice against what he claimed was a loophole in the witness protection program, describing the practice as “legal dukot (legal abduction).”
The committee conducted a probe recently on the death of Ortega and learned that Ortega’s vocal crusade against officials linked to the Malampaya royalty fund misuse might have pushed certain groups to have him killed.