Identities of the abductors are still unknown
MANILA, Philippines - An autopsy conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed that Dennis Aranas, a witness in the Gerry Ortega murder case, committed suicide in his cell.
It was also reported that Aranas was distraught over his removal from the government's Witness Protection Program (WPP), and hinted of killing himself.
Jail Chief Supt Diony Mamaril, officer-in-charge of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said in a report on Friday, February 8, that the autopsy confirmed initial reports that Aranas died by hanging.
“Please be informed that according to the autopsy report conducted by Antonio Vertido, Medico Legal Officer, NBI, the cause of death of inmate Dennis Aranas is asphyxia by hanging,” Mamaril said.
Aranas was found dead on Tuesday, February 5, in his cell at the Lucena Provincial Jail, with a bag strap around his neck. Jail officials reported it was suicide.
The Ortega family, however, is not convinced that Aranas committed suicide, and asked for an autopsy. The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also called for a wider probe, noting inconsistencies in the jail management's report. For example, the crime scene was already cleaned up when police arrived, according to the NUJP.
Two of the main suspects in the case had fled the country - former Palawan Gov Joel Reyes and his brother former Mayor Mario Reyes.
The Ortega family believes that powerful people were behind efforts to either silence or bribe witnesses in the murder case.
A separate report submitted by the Quezon District Jail said Aranas hinted of killing himself a day before his death allegedly due to frustrations over his removal from the WPP, which deprived his family of money.
The report cited the account of a fellow inmate, who claims that Aranas had told him about his problems, among them the suspension of financial support from government and his live-in partner being seen with another man.
"He saw Dennis crying while narrating his problem,” the report said.
Aranas was one of the alleged hitmen in the case, supposedly hired by Rodolfo "Bumar" Edrad, who stands accused of killing the broadcaster and environmentalist on Jan 24, 2011.
Edrad and Aranas were both part of the WPP after they turned into state witnesses for the case. However, Aranas was released from the program because of a murder case filed against him in Gumaca, Quezon in 2012. - with reports from Rey Santos/Rappler.com