Ex-governor Cagas linked to newsman’s killing jailed
DIGOS CITY, Philippines — Former Davao del Sur Governor Douglas Cagas voluntarily turned himself over to the police here Monday morning and was locked up in jail shortly after a judge formally issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the killing of journalist Nestor Bedolido more than four years ago.
With about a dozen vehicles of supporters and his lawyers in tow, Cagas went to the Davao del Sur police department’s investigation section and declared he was yielding to the authorities.
Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Carmelita Davin signed warrants for the arrest of Cagas and three co-accused about one-and-a-half hours later.
The former governor was later turned over to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s district jail here on the strength of a commitment order issued by the judge.
Journalists were not allowed inside the compound but Cagas was seen being locked in a cell along other inmates.
Senior Superintendent Michael John Dubria, Davao del Sur police chief, said Cagas would not receive any special treatment.
“He will be treated as other suspected offenders,” he said.
The Inquirer learned that one of the co-accused in the June 2010 killing of Bedolido, Mayor Vicente Fernandez of the town of Matanao, was earlier admitted to a hospital here, while the two others, Ali Ordaneza and Bado Sanches, remain at large.
The filing of a murder case against Cagas, Fernandez, Ordaneza and Sanchez was ordered by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in August after she reversed an earlier decision by local prosecutors to drop charges against the four. Bedolido’s family had asked her to review the earlier findings.
De Lima also caused the withdrawal of the same charges against the brothers Henry and Voltaire Mirafuentes, and Artemio Timosan.
Voltaire Mirafuentes, the alleged gunman who surrendered in October 2010, was admitted to the government’s Witness Protection Program. De Lima said there was not enough evidence that Timosan had conspired with the other respondents.
De Lima said the prosecutors erred when they declared that Voltaire Mirafuente’s confession was insufficient to indict Cagas and the other respondents.
De Lima maintained that Mirafuentes’ confession and a corroborating statement from his brother Henry was enough to establish conspiracy among Cagas, Fernandez, Ordaneza and Sanchez in the killing of Bedolido. She said there was no collusion between the Mirafuentes brothers when they made their statements.
In a statement to the media following his surrender, Cagas maintained his innocence in the killing of Bedolido, a former editor of the weekly magazine, Digos Times and a columnist of the weekly Kastigador.
“I am innocent. I have not committed a crime. I have not asked anybody to kill for me that’s why I submitted myself since I have faith in God and trust in our judiciary system,” Cagas told reporters at the Davao del Sur police headquarters here.
He said that the revival of the case against him and the subsequent issuance of a warrant was politically motivated.
“I know politics is behind all of these. This case had already been dismissed by our state prosecutors only to be reversed later on,” Cagas said.
But Cesar Europa, lawyer for the Bedolido family, said the case had been dragging on for four years.
He said that being ordinary persons, the members of the Bedolido family could not possibly exert political pressure on anybody.
“He was the governor at the time of the murder so if there was somebody who has political influence, it was him,” Europa said in a telephone interview.
He said members of the Bedolido family welcomed the arrest of Cagas and were hopeful of justice for the journalist.
The Bedolido case went through several twists in recent months.
In April, a 12-year-old girl was injured when unidentified men lobbed a grenade at the house of Timosan in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.
In May, Henry Mirafuentes was arrested by the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Davao City for the murder of the journalist.
In August, an eyewitness to the journalist’s murder, Ritchie Manapol was gunned down in Davao City. With a report from Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao
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