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CPJ welcomes arrest warrants in Esperat case

October 23, 2008 9:46am

NEW YORK - The Committee to Protect Journalists in New York on Thursday welcomed a court decision ordering the arrest of Osmeña Montañer and Estrella Sabay, the alleged masterminds in the 2005 killing of journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat.

“This is more reassuring news from the Philippines. It is good that the local court has moved on to the next step of bringing to justice the alleged masterminds behind the terrible murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat," said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator.

"We hope the government watches this case closely and ensures that it is fully prosecuted and justice is served," Dietz added.

A court in Sultan Kudarat on Tuesday ordered the arrest of Montañer and Sabay, alleged masterminds in the killing of Esperat.

Judge Melanio S. Guerrero of the Tacurong City Regional Trial Court Branch 20 issued the warrants of arrest.

Murder charges were filed against the suspects on Monday.

Montaner and Sabay, however, filed on Tuesday a motion to quash the information.

Lawyer Nena Santos, private counsel in the case, said the court will hear the motion on Monday, October 27, 2008.

Esperat was killed on March 24, 2005, inside her home in Sultan Kudarat. She was known for her exposes on the alleged corrupt activities in the regional office of the Department of Agriculture where Montañer and Sabay worked as finance officer and regional accountant, respectively.

On February 4, 2008, the Cebu City RTC Branch 7 of Judge Simeon Dumdum issued warrants of arrest against Montañer and Sabay. But a preliminary injunction issued by the Cebu City Court of Appeals on May 14, 2008, prevented the serving of the warrants of arrest and Judge Dumdum from hearing the case.

Montañer and Sabay filed the petition for the issuance of a preliminary injunction before the appellate court on March 6, 2008, arguing that the Cebu City RTC had no jurisdiction over the case filed against them.

The Cebu City Court of Appeals agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General's opinion that the case against Montañer and Sabay should be filed in Tacurong City where the murder happened.

On September 28, 2008, Judge Dumdum approved the petition for the withdrawal of charges at the Cebu City RTC filed by the prosecutors in preparation for the filing of a murder case against the alleged masterminds before the Tacurong City RTC.

Since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power in 2001, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility said 37 journalists have been killed in the line of duty—almost half the total number of journalists killed in the line of duty since 1986.
Out of the 37 cases, only the assassins and their accomplices in two cases—the 2005 killing of Esperat and the 2002 killing of Edgar Damalerio—have been convicted. No mastermind in any of the cases has been successfully prosecuted. - CMFR/GMANews.TV
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