On the first anniversary of journalist Edgar Amoro’s cowardly murder, Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the flagrant impunity prevailing in his case, in which arrest warrants have been issued but the suspects have never been detained although they flaunt themselves in public in Pagadian (on the southern island of Mindanao).
The press freedom organisation also reiterated its solidarity with Amoro’s family, which has been fighting for justice in the face of threats that have forced it to flee Pagadian.
"We call on Gen. Arturo Lomibao, the national chief of police, to do everything possible to ensure that the suspects are arrested and that a proper investigation is carried out," Reporters Without Borders said. "Gen. Lomibao’s declared desire to put a stop to violence against the press should be reflected in the immediate arrests of the perpetrators and instigators of Amoro’s murder."
A journalist and teacher, Amoro, 46, was gunned down outside a school in Pagadian on 2 February 2005 in a killing directly linked to the May 2002 murder of fellow journalist Edgar Damalerio.
"By killing my husband, they eliminated a key witness in the Damalerio case and a courageous man who was continuing to denounce corruption and social injustice in Pagadian," Elvira Amoro told Reporters Without Borders. "During his programme on radio DXKP five days before he died, he read out an open letter criticizing the absence of the rule of law in Pagadian," she said.
In its own investigation, Reporters Without Borders established that friends and police superiors of Guillermo Wapile, a policeman who was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for Damalerio’s murder, were involved in the Amoro killing.
The two killers were inside the school where Amoro taught English. They could only have entered with the complicity of the two guards posted at the entrance, who were employees of a security agency run by an associate of Pagadian’s former police chief, Asuri Hawani. Dozens of people witnessed the murder but none gave information to the investigators for fear of reprisals. Hawani associates are said to have directly threatened witnesses.
Arrests warrants were issued for the two suspected killers, "Madix" Maulana and Norhan Ambol, but the police have never picked them up although they have been seen openly on the streets of Pagadian for several months, according to a local journalist.
Meanwhile, the Pagadian police have identified and arrested a miliary intelligence agent who is a suspect in the murder of radio journalist Rolly Canete two weeks ago, on 20 January. The breakthrough in this recent case came just a few days after Gen. Lomibao, the national police chief, visited the city.
At least five journalists have been killed in Pagadian in the past five years. "There has been no lasting improvement in security in the city, and those who had Damalerio and Amoro killed have been left in peace," Reporters Without Borders was told by editor Hernan de la Cruz of the Zamboanga Scribe, a local newspaper.