Ortega daughter doubts witness committed suicide

Posted at 02/06/13 9:34 PM

MANILA -- The alleged lookout in the murder of environmental activist and radio broadcaster Dr. Gerry Ortega was found dead inside his jail cell in Lucena, Quezon province Tuesday.

Chief Inspector Job de Mesa of Lucena Police on Wednesday confirmed Dennis Aranas was found dead inside his cell at the Quezon District Jail.

Police, however, noted that the incident was not immediately reported to them by the provincial jail. They only learned about the incident after Aranas' brother, Aljon, went to the police station to request for an autopsy as he suspects foul play in his brother's death.

Likewise, the daughter of Ortega, Michaella, said her family does not believe Aranas committed suicide.

In an interview with radio dzMM Wednesday afternoon, Michaella said the body of Aranas was found to have bruises.

She said the Lucena Police also noted that personnel of the provincial jail had already cleaned Aranas' cell even before police arrived at the area.

"Meron daw pong mga pasa sa katawan at mukha ngang 'di suicide. At mismo nga pong 'yung Lucena Police ay nagsasabi na 'di po sumunod sa tamang patakaran 'yung provincial jail nung nakita nila itong katawan ni Dennis Aranas. Nung pumunta daw po dun 'yung police eh nilinis na daw po 'yung selda," Michaella said.

"Kaya kami po ay nangangamba na mukha ngang may foul play na naganap," she added.

Michaella said it is also doubtful that there were no witnesses of the supposed suicide. 

"Ang nakapagtataka po dun...paanong wala man lang testigo sa kung anong nangyari? 'Di po ba magkakasama 'yan sa selda? 'Yung mga ibang tao na katabi man lang, walang naireport."

Aranas, who allegedly served as the lookout of the gunman that shot Ortega to death last January 2011, surrendered to police authorities and turned witness for the case.

Michaella said Aranas' statements corroborated the testimonies of other witnesses, leading the trail to alleged mastermind former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes.

"'Yung kanyang testimonya po ay nagcocorroborate at tumutugma sa mga testimonya ng iba pong mga testigo. So importante po siya in so far na napapalakas niya 'yung kaso," she said.

She said Aranas was formerly placed under the Witness Protection Program but was later removed from the program due to a murder case in Lucena.

Michaella, however, claimed: "Parang strategy na lang na tanggalin sa Witness Protection Program sa pagpapalitaw ng ibang kaso."

In an earlier statement, she said her family is now worried that the case against Reyes may weaken as more witnesses die.

"We liken this to what happens in the Maguindanao Massacre trial and how the death of witnesses can affect the case. We are just worried because as witnesses die (for whatever cause), the case may weaken in the long run," she said.

Another suspect in the killing of Ortega, Valentin Lecias, died last September 2012 of liver disease.

Lecias was the alleged buyer of the gun used by another suspect, Marlon Recamata, to kill Ortega.

He was the security aide of Reyes. Reyes' brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, is also implicated in the case.

The Reyes brothers are still at large.