Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) today hailed the significant progress made by police in the past three weeks in three separate cases of murders of journalists and voiced the hope that the authorities in the Philippines may at last be trying to combat the prevailing impunity in such killings.
Since 23 August, the police have arrested some suspected killers of journalists Ely Binoya, Arnel Manalo and Edgar Damalerio (photo).
In a letter to interior and local government secretary Angelo T. Reyes, Reporters Without Borders called on the authorities to maintain the present efforts in order to ensure that all the investigations reach a successful conclusion. It also urged the police to pass on the results of their enquiries promptly to the judicial authorities so that trials can begin, and it called on the minister to ensure that the witnesses in these cases continue to receive protection.
Edgar Damalerio’s presumed murderer, former police officer Guillermo Wapile (photo), turned himself in to the police in Pagadian (on the southern island of Mindanao) on 12 September and was shown to the press the next day.
He was originally identified and arrested in May 2002, a few days after Damalerio’s murder, but the local police covered up for him and released him although he had been formally identified by two witnesses, one of whom, Jury Ladica, was murdered a few weeks later.
Wapile was re-arrested in January 2003 but mysteriously succeeded in escaping from the police camp in Pagadian a few days later. Thereafter, witness of Damalerio’s murder and members of his family had often received death threats from Wapile and his accomplices.
Michael Garcia, a contract killer suspected of murdering Arnel Manalo, was arrested on 27 August in Parañaque (in the district of Baclaran, south of Manila). Garcia was identified by Manalo’s brother, who witnessed the murder. The person suspected of instigating the murder, Edilberto Mendoza, turned himself in six days later.
Ephraim "Toto" Englis and Alfonso Toquero, two suspects in the murder of Ely Binoya, turned themselves in to the authorities on 23 August, although they are insisting on their innocence. The police believe that Englis, a former police officer and village chief, masterminded the killing of Binoya, who had accused him and other local dignitaries of corruption.