Reporters Without Borders called today on the Philippine authorities to urgently find the escaped chief suspect in the murder of journalist Edgar Damalerio and to arrest another man believed to have masterminded the killing on 13 May last year.
It appealed to interior minister José D. Lima Jr. to see that police and the army recaptured suspect Guillermo Wapille, a former policeman, who escaped from the police camp at Pagadian (Mindanao island) on 1 February and to investigate how he escaped. Since then, two witnesses of the murder, who gave evidence against him, and the journalist’s family have received death threats.
It also repeated its call for the arrest of the reported brains behind the killing, former local police chief Asuri Hawani. Local journalists’ organisations have denounced the failure of the authorities to act.
Wapille was held at Camp Abelon, in Pagadian, under the responsibility of the local police chief, Pedrito Reyes. Police said he escaped on 1 February and Damalerio’s associates said he was probably still in the area.
Since then, two people who gave evidence against him have received death threats, including Edgar Amoro, who was with Damalerio in a car when he was shot. His widow Gemma, who has been in hiding for several months, has also been threatened and fears reprisals against the family.
She also fears Wapille will not be recaptured before the expiry on 10 February of the arrest warrant issued on 30 January by Pagadian regional court judge Franklyn Villegas. Her lawyer plans to file a complaint against police chief Reyes for failing to guard prisoners properly