Witness in Ortega case found dead in jail
MANILA, Philippines - One of the witnesses in the Gerry Ortega murder case was found dead in jail Tuesday, February 5.
Dennis Aranas was found dead in his cell at the Lucena Provincial Jail, with a bag strap around his neck. Jail officials informed his family Tuesday, and reported it was suicide.
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 Witness Protection Program (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.
In a statement, the Ortega family said Aranas' wife "does not believe" he committed suicide.
"We are pooling funds for an autopsy. When my mother heard that the cost can't be shouldered by Aranas' family, she requested me to find ways to help," Michaella Ortega, daughter of the slain activist, said in a statement.
"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 in the statement.
Aranas is the second witness to have died, the Ortegas added. Val Lecias, who reportedly bought the gun used to kill the broadcaster, died in 2012. - Rappler.com