NUJP appeals to media, public to keep spotlight on Davao del Sur journalist’s murder
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has called for media and public vigilance to prevent a whitewash in the investigation and prosecution of the murder of Davao del Sur journalist Nestor Bedolido.
In a media statement, NUJP welcomed the surrender of former Davao del Sur governor Douglas Cagas, who was tagged as the mastermind in the killing of the journalist in June 2010.
Cagas surrendered around 7:15 a.m. Monday, more than an hour before Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Carmelita Davin issued a warrant for his arrest and three other suspects in Bedolido’s murder.
Another suspect, Matanao, Davao del Sur, Mayor Vicente Fernandez, was put under hospital arrest after he was rushed there for hypertension.
Two other suspects, Ali Ordaneza and Bado Sanchez have remained at large and have become the subjects of a massive manhunt, Senior Supt. Michael John Dubria, the Davao del Sur police chief, said.
Cagas was named by the self-confessed gunman, Voltaire Mirafuentes, as the one who allegedly ordered Bedolido’s killing. Fernandez, Ordaneza and Sanchez were implicated in the case for allegedly taking part in its planning.
“Though Cagas’ surrender does not mean guilt on his part, we should keep an eye on the case to ensure that justice would be served for our slain colleague and the guilty is punished,” Jessie Casalda, NUJP Davao chapter chair, said.
Casalda said Cagas’ surrender was “indeed a positive development in the quest for justice for our fellow journalist, Bedolido.”
“Governor Cagas, despite being identified implicated in Bedolido’s murder, continues to maintain his innocence and he has his day in court to prove that he has nothing to do with the killing,” he said.
Bedolido once served as an editor of the Digos Times, a magazine that Cagas owned.
The former governor initially denied Bedolido worked for him but the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) and other media groups got copies of the Digos Times that bore Bedolido’s name.
Initial investigation revealed that Bedolido and Cagas had a falling out and the journalist later became a columnist of the weekly Davao del Sur-based Kastigador, which carried exposés against the governor’s administration.
On June 16, 2010, the 50-year-old Bedolido was buying cigarettes outside his videoke parlor when he was shot dead. He succumbed to six gunshot wounds.
A few months after the killing, the police identified the primary suspects and filed charges against Artemio Timosan and brothers Voltaire and Henry Mirafuentes.
In October 2010, Voltaire surrendered and confessed that he was the gunman who shot the journalist. He also bared the involvement of Cagas, Fernandez, Sanchez and Ordaneza in the killing.
Henry, on the other hand, claimed he served as a lookout.
Government prosecutors subsequently dropped the murder charges against Cagas and the other accused.
But last August 26, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima reversed the decision and signed a 16-page resolution ordering the filing of murder charges against them.
De Lima also ordered the dropping of charges against the Mirafuentes brothers and Timosan.
“More than 20 journalists have been killed under the Aquino administration. And still justice have not been served for them. Only through our collective effort as media practitioners can we fight this culture of impunity in the country,” Casalda said.
As this developed, the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in Davao del Sur has deployed personnel to the Davao Doctor’s Hospital here, where Fernandez has been admitted.
Senior Inspector Elmer Cabuslay, the Matanao town police chief, said Fernandez surrendered to him around 11 a.m. Monday upon learning of the warrant issued by Davin.
“The mug shot and his finger prints had already been taken at the hospital,” Chief Insp. Dave Mejia, CIDG provincial commander, said.
He said Fernandez has been effectively under hospital arrest and would be turned over to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s district office here – where he would join Cagas – upon the improvement of his physical condition.
BJMP officials here, meanwhile, continued to be mum on reports Cagas has been receiving special treatment inside the jail.
As of Tuesday, no journalist has been allowed inside the facility.
Davao del Sur Representative Mercedes Cagas, Cagas’ wife, said the family was hopeful Cagas would be cleared in court.
She maintained that her husband’s arrest was due to political pressures and that it was harassment by their political enemies.
The lawmaker hinted moneyed groups could be behind the victim’s family and questioned their capability to hire costly lawyers or to attend the hearings.
Lawyer Cesar Europa, who has been helping the Bedolido family, said the families of journalists kin had no political power.
“This case would not have dragged for four years if someone powerful has been pushing for it,” Europa told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.
Europa also corrected Representative Cagas’ perception that politicians were paying him and the other lawyers.
“The NUJP has asked us to take this case,” he said. – Eldie Aguirre and Orlando Dinoy
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