The remaining suspect turned witness in the murder of Palawan environmentalist and broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega remains under the protective custody of the government and will not be transferred to the Quezon provincial jail where another witness turned up dead last week.
By way of belying Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn’s claim that star witness Rodolfo Edrad Jr., aka Bumar, was to be moved to the jail in Lucena City to face charges in another case, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said Edrad was still in the government’s Witness Protection Program and the Quezon court that had sought his transfer had granted the prosecution’s motion to keep him under WPP custody.
Edrad had hired the gunman who fatally shot Ortega two years ago in Puerto Princesa City. He turned state’s evidence along with Dennis Aranas, who was held in the Quezon provincial jail to face charges in another case when he was found dead in his cell under mysterious circumstances.
De Lima has clarified that the National Bureau of Investigation had not ruled Aranas’ death a suicide when it said it was caused by “asphyxia by hanging.’’
She said the NBI was investigating Aranas’ death and was not discounting the possibility of foul play.
“Please do not worry. I’m directing this to the Ortegas and Hagedorn. Please check your facts,” she said.
Alarmed by news
She said she was alarmed by a news report that quoted Hagedorn as saying the transfer of Edrad to the Quezon jail was suspicious after Aranas died there.
“He has not been transferred and we don’t intend to transfer him to any
other facility, especially since the court granted our motion,” De Lima told reporters.
Hagedorn had said there was “something fishy” about the cases filed against Edrad and Aranas in Quezon. He also found suspicious the transfer of Aranas to the jail in Lucena City and the move to have Edrad brought there after he testified on the Ortega murder.
Edrad had expressed fears about the transfer and became apprehensive about testifying against former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and the latter’s brother Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, whom he had tagged as the masterminds in the killing of Ortega.
De Lima said the information on Edrad was wrong and she could not understand where it had come from.
“Is this deliberate or what? Because this won’t do any good,” she said.