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Philippines 28 August 2002

Another threat against a witness in Edgar Damalerio’s murder

Reporters Without Borders today protested against the attempted kidnapping on 26 August of Rosalie Ungue, the wife of one of the key witnesses in the murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio, just two weeks after another key witness was killed.

"The determination of the journalist’s killers to silence the witnesses seems to be matched only by the laxness with which the authorities are treating this case", Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to Interior Minister José Lina. "Such negligence is not only unacceptable under the rule of law, if such exists, it is absolutely criminal", Ménard said.

The letter again called on the interior minister to take all necessary steps to obtain the arrest of Pagadian’s former chief of police Asuri Hawani, who is suspected of having ordered Damalerio’s murder, and the arrest of the police officer suspected of having carried it out, Guillermo Wapile. Reporters Without Borders had previously written to the interior minister to express its outrage at the killing on 10 August of another key witness, Jury "Ladica" Lobitaña.

Rosalie Ungue, the wife of witness Edgar Ungue, was approached by two armed, masked men on 26 August in front of a store in Dumalinao (south Zamboanga province). After asking if she was indeed Ungue’s wife, they grabbed her and tried to force her to mount a motorcycle in the presence of several passers-by. They finally abandoned their attempt after she fainted. She subsequently filed a complaint and took refuge in another town.

The third key witness in this case, Edgar Amoro, was also the target of a kidnapping attempt near Pagadian’s school at the start of August. He is still being protected by a civilian volunteer at his home in Pagadian, where he has been joined by Edgar Ungue and the witnesses of Lobitaña’s murder. While they continue to fear for their lives, they hope that Pagadian’s new chief of police will finally move ahead with the Damalerio case and arrest the murderers.

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