Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Wednesday ordered another investigation of the death of a witness in the murder of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega in a jail in Quezon, saying now that he found unbelievable jail officials’ story that Dennis Aranas killed himself.
In a press conference, Roxas said he ordered the new investigation after receiving a report that ran counter to a report submitted by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) that concluded that Aranas, a witness and participant in the murder of Ortega in Puerto Princesa City, committed suicide by hanging.
In the same press conference, Director General Alan Purisima, Philippine National Police chief, countered a statement made by a top jail official, BJMP Calabarzon chief Serafin Barretto, that there was no need to report suicides in jail to police.
The BJMP on Wednesday offered a P100,000 reward for information that would lead to the truth about Aranas’ death.
Barretto said the reward would hopefully encourage inmates who saw how Aranas died to come out and speak up.
He, however, said the BJMP continues to believe a report by the National Bureau of Investigation that ruled Aranas’ death to be a suicide. It was the same report cited by Roxas earlier.
But the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), which conducted a separate autopsy on Sunday, found bruises on Aranas’ body that led it to conclude that he was beaten up and strangled to death. The Ortega family has asked Roxas to investigate further based on PAO’s findings.
If there was a foul play, said BJMP official Barretto, “we hope the inmates would come forward with their information. At least, someone could whisper it.”
Aranas has been detained at the Quezon provincial jail since June 29 last year after his enrollment in the witness protection program was delayed by a murder and frustrated murder case filed against him in another town in Quezon. Aranas’ common law wife said the new case surprised her as Aranas had never been to the Quezon town.
Barretto said jail officials granted Aranas’ request to be in isolation because “we thought he would be much safer.”
Asked why Aranas requested to be in isolation, Barretto said Aranas claimed there were “threats” to his life, but he did not elaborate.
Marlon Recamata, the confessed gunman in the Ortega murder, expressed fears for his security should the court send him to the same jail where Aranas died.
Recamata, who is currently detained in a jail in Puerto Princesa City, is facing a separate case of “resisting authority” at the regional trial court in Pagbilao, Quezon, the hearing for which is set on March 11.
“We can assure the public that our jails are safe but I hope you also understand the situation in our facilities,” Barretto said.
He said it would be impossible to guard the inmates 24 hours a day because of lack of jail guards.
In the Quezon provincial jail alone, 27 guards are assigned to 1,000 inmates. With a report by Marlon Ramos