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Opinion

EDITORIAL - The other targets

The Philippine Star

Apart from journalists and left-leaning activists who are murdered with impunity, there’s another endangered group in this country: witnesses in the killings. Last week Ritchie Nacao Manapol was watching a billiards game in Davao City when three men approached him and opened fire. Manapol fled to the kitchen but was chased by the men, who left him dying with multiple gunshot wounds before fleeing on a motorcycle.

Who would want to take out Manapol? Suspicion focuses on one motive: Manapol provided eyewitness testimony in the murder of journalist Nestor Bedolido on June 19, 2010 in Digos City. Bedolido was a writer for the tabloid Kastigador.

One of the suspects in Bedolido’s killing surrendered to the police four months later and pointed to former Davao del Sur governor Douglas Cagas and Matanao Mayor Butch Fernandez as the masterminds. Both officials denied involvement and were later cleared by a trial court. The case is on appeal.

Manapol initially received state protection as a witness. While being under the Witness Protection Program can provide safety, it can be a confining arrangement. Manapol opted out of the WPP, even as the case against the alleged brains collapsed.

With Manapol’s death, justice for Bedolido has become uncertain, just like the many other murders targeting journalists in the past three decades. A man at least is on trial as the triggerman in Bedolido’s killing. But if the person who ordered the hit can get away with it, more murders are possible.

The execution of witnesses is one of the reasons for the failure to solve murders. In what has to be the world’s worst attack on journalists – the 2009 massacre in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao – several key witnesses have been assassinated. The state cannot watch every witness around the clock, especially if they are like Manapol who refuse government protection. But they will be safer if the murderers they are testifying against are caught and brought to justice. This is the best deterrent to impunity.

 

 

vuukle comment

AMPATUAN

BEDOLIDO

DAVAO CITY

DIGOS CITY

MANAPOL

MAYOR BUTCH FERNANDEZ

NESTOR BEDOLIDO

RITCHIE NACAO MANAPOL

WITH MANAPOL

WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM

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