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CPJ welcomes new charges vs masterminds in Esperat slay

October 21, 2008 10:07am
MANILA, Philippines - A New York-based media watchdog group welcomed Tuesday the filing of murder charges against two officials in the killing of journalist Marlene Esperat in 2005.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it is "heartened" to learn that murder charges were filed against Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay.

"We commend Philippine prosecutors, who have taken another step forward in finally bringing about justice in the cold-blooded murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat," said Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia program coordinator, on the CPJ website.

"It is now up to the courts and prosecutors to press for a full resolution on this brave journalist's murder," he added.

Montañer and Sabay were Mindanao Department of Agriculture officials who Esperat had accused of siphoning off money from fertilizer purchases.

Charges against the two men had previously been dismissed in 2005, the CPJ noted.

But the Tacurong City Regional Trial Court, where the charges were brought, has yet to issue arrest warrants for the men, according to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.

In March 2005, a gunman walked into Esperat's house in Tacurong City and killed her in front of her family.

The gunman and his accomplice escaped from the scene on a motorcycle.

Esperat was an anti-graft columnist for newspaper The Midland Review. She had been under police protection as result of recent death threats.

CPJ cited local news reports that she let her two guards leave early for the Easter holidays before the killing.

Estanislao Bismanos, Gerry Cabayag, and Randy Grecia, the gunman, lookout, and co-conspirator, were given life sentences in October 2006 in a court in Cebu.

The investigation had been moved there at one point to ensure a fair trial and to protect witnesses. - GMANews.TV