Mohammed Maulana, the alleged murderer of journalist Edgar Amoro, was arrested on 18 September in Pagadian (the capital of Zamboanga del Sur province on the southern island of Mindanao). Maulana was caught with three accomplices while committing a robbery and is now being held in Pagadian’s provincial prison. He is suspected of murdering Amoro in February 2005 because Amoro was the key witness in the May 2002 murder of fellow journalist Edgar Damalerio, 13 May 2002.
Witness attacked and the family of another threatened in Damalerio case
Reporters Without Borders urged the Philippines authorities to protect the family of Edgar Amoro, a witness to the murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio, who was himself murdered on 2 February and buried on 14 February.
A local source who requested anonymity said that anonymous death threats were made against all members of Amoro’s family in the week of 7 February and threats were also made to burn down their home. This last threat was aimed at destroying evidence in the forthcoming trial of the man suspected of Damalerio’s murder, police officer Guillermo Wapile.
Elsewhere, the last surviving witness to the Damalerio killing, Edgar Ongue, escaped a murder attempt on 9 February. Ongue, seen as the last hope for justice in this case, has been living in hiding for several years.
Police name suspect in killing of witness Edgar Amoro
The police today named a man who they said was a suspect in the killing of Edgar Amoro, a witness of the murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio.
Vidal Querol, chief of police in the Zamboanga region (on the southern island of Mindanao), said the police were actively seeking Mohammed Maulama, who had shared a cell with Damalerio’s alleged murderer, policeman Guillermo Wapile, himself detained since September 2004.
Murder of key witness in Edgar Damalerio killing
Reporters Without Borders expressed shock at the murder of Edgar Amoro, a key witness to the murder of his friend, journalist Edgar Damalerio, and condemned the government’s failure to protect him.
Amoro, 46, shot dead in Pagadian, in the southern isIand of Mindanao on 2 February 2005, was under a justice ministry witness protection scheme. He is the second witness to be killed by accomplices of the chief suspect, ex-police officer, Guillermo Wapile.
Paying tribute to Amoro, the worldwide press freedom organisation said he was a courageous man who had risked his life so that the murderers of his friend could be arrested and brought to justice.
Amoro and his family had lived in fear since 13 May 2002, and had survived numerous attempts on their lives. Reporters Without Borders said it was dismayed at the government’s inability to protect witnesses in a trial that President Gloria Arroyo had vaunted as a success in the fight against impunity.
Amoro was shot dead at point blank range by three men as he left a high school in Pagadian where he taught English. He died in hospital shortly afterwards.
This latest tragic episode in the Edgar Damalerio case should persuade the courts to take steps for the trial to start as soon as possible. The organisation said it supported the families’ demand for it to be held away from Pagadian, where safety cannot be guaranteed.
Amoro was travelling in a car with Edgar Damalerio when he was murdered on 13 May 2002. He told Reporters Without Borders several times that he was determined, despite the threats, to give evidence at the trial. He had recently identified Guillermo Wapile as Damalerio’s killer. The ex-police officer gave himself up to police in Pagadian on 12 September 2004. He was brought before the press the next day and the highest authorities welcomed the arrest in this now symbolic case.
Previously, local police had covered up for Wapile and released him, despite the fact he had been identified by two witnesses, Edgar Amoro and Jury Ladica, who was himself murdered in August 2002.
Damalerio’s widow decided to go into hiding on 2 February. The last witness, Edgar Ongue, has lived in hiding for several years.
Witnesses to the murder and the journalist’s family have received regular death threats since May 2002 from Wapile and his accomplices. Police officer Asuri Hawani, who has always protected Wapile, his former subordinate, was recently appointed security advisor to Pagadian’s mayor.