Suspect in Ortega slay didn't commit suicide - PAO

Posted at 02/11/13 4:11 PM

Aranas killed by four people - experts

MANILA, Philippines – A post-mortem examination led by the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) revealed that the suspect-turned-witness in the murder case of environment activist and broadcaster Gerry Ortega did not commit suicide.

PAO forensic consultant Dr. Erwin Erfe said the marks found on the lower portion of the neck of Dennis Aranas suggest that the latter was choked to death. Nail marks were also observed on Aranas' neck.

Erfe said if Aranas indeed hung himself, the marks would be closer to the jaw.

He added that the body of Aranas bore some bruises, an indication that the latter was beaten up before being choked to death.

Based on the bruises and marks found on Aranas' body, the PAO team concluded that the victim was killed by at least four people.

Erfe said one of the suspects choked Aranas using the hand, while another one choked the victim using an object. The two other suspects allegedly pinned Aranas down.

Aranas was found dead inside his jail cell in Lucena, Quezon last February 5. A bag strap was found coiled around his neck.

Police said his death was a case of suicide, but the Ortega and Aranas families believe there was foul play involved.

PAO chief Persida Acosta said her office will ask the Department of the Interior and Local Government to conduct an investigation into the death of Aranas.

Aranas allegedly served as the lookout for confessed gunman Marlon Recamata.

He is the second witness to die inside a jail. Valentin Lecias, the alleged buyer of the gun used by Recamata, succumbed to a liver disease in September last year.

Aranas was also removed from the Witness Protection Program due to a separate murder case in Lucena.

Ortega, a known environmentalist and community organizer, was killed in broad daylight on January 24, 2011 after his morning radio show in Palawan.

A suspect, Rodolfo O. Edrad Jr., later linked former Marinduque Governor Jose Antonio Carrion, former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and former Coron, Palawan Mayor Mario T. Reyes Jr. to the murder.

The gun used to kill Ortega was also traced to former Palawan provincial administrator Romeo Serratubias, who served under Reyes.

The Reyes brothers remain at large. – with a report from dzMM