Court convicts journalist killer
MANILA, Philippines—The Panga, Camarines Sur Regional Trial Court Branch 60 has convicted the triggerman in the murder of Bicol-based journalist Miguel Belen.
Belen of dwEB of Nabua, Camarines Sur, was killed on July 2010 while on his way home from work along Barangay Francia in Sorsogon City.
In a decision promulgated on Feb. 5, Eric Vargas was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua (20 years and one day to 40 years in prison).
The trial went on for almost five years.
While the National Union of Journalist of the Philippines (NUJP) welcomed the decision, the group lamented that “full justice remains elusive because another suspect, Gina Bagacina, who media reports say is a New People’s Army member, remains at large. And given the fact that Belen was known to be tackling politics and corruption at the time of his death, it is most likely that the investigation into the murder has failed to identify the mastermind.”
“Nevertheless, the conviction of Vargas provides a ray of hope in a country where very, very few cases of media killings even reach the courts due to inept investigation or the actual involvement of local executives and police in many of the murders.”
“At the same time, if reports of Bagacina’s membership in the NPA are true, we call on their leadership to do the right thing and help ensure that she does not evade accountability for Belen’s murder … We most especially challenge authorities to investigate the Belen and Olea murders more thoroughly to unmask the brains behind their deaths.”