The Public Attorneys Office on Monday debunked earlier findings that Dennis C. Aranas, the confessed lookout in the murder of Palawan broadcaster and environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega, died by hanging.
The finding prompted Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to re-order the National Bureau of Investigation have another look into the death of Aranas, after she earlier dismissed the death as a suicide.
Ortega was murdered on Jan. 214, 2011 by suspected hired killers. Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes were later implicated in the murder. Both are still at large.
PAO chief Persida Acosta said that post-mortem examination conducted by the PAO’s Forensic Laboratory revealed that Aranas did not hang himself while in detention, but was killed through strangulation by at least four persons. Acosta cited the findings made by Dr. Erwin Erfe, director of PAO’s Forensic Laboratory, that Aranas died of asphyxia through “manual and ligature strangulation.”
“Dennis didn’t hang himself. He was killed by at least four persons,” Acosta said, in a telephone interview. “Hindi siya (Aranas) nag-suicide.” (He did not commit suicide).
Acosta said Aranas was beaten up by “maybe four persons” that could have caused his death inside his cell at the Quezon District Jail in Lucena City on Feb. 7.
“His ligature mark around the neck was not that deep so we could not really give an opinion that his death was a cause of ligature strangulation,” she added.
Citing Erfe’s preliminary conclusion, she said Aranas sustained multiple physical injuries with fingernail marks on his neck and right forearm; suffered from hematoma on his lower lip, swollen left periorbital area, and contused tissue on the right shoulder area, anterior aspect lower third of both forelegs and other parts of the body.
The forensic examination also showed that Aranas died in a “lying position.”
The PAO chief said that they will submit their findings to the department of Justice.
Erfe conducted the post mortem examination at Funeraria Popular, San Pablo City, Laguna on February 10, 2013. Chief Supt. Diony Mamaril, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officer in charge, earlier cited an initial report of an autopsy conducted by NBI medico-legal officer Antonio Vertido that Aranas’ died of asphyxia by hanging.
Acosta said she ordered the post-mortem examination after the family and relatives of Aranas went to PAO for help after noting that the witness’ body had several contusions.
Acosta said the wife and relatives of Aranas also appealed to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas to conduct a thorough investigation on the circumstances surrounding the death of the witness.
Earlier, de Lima assured the public that the government’s case against the suspects in the Ortega case remained strong despite the death of Aranas inside his cell at the Quezon provincial jail on Tuesday last week.
De Lima admitted that Aranas was no longer covered by the witness protection program (WPP) of the Department of Justice at the time of his death.
“He was provisionally admitted to the program, but upon evaluation, he did not qualify for regular admission because there was a certification of non-materiality by the handling prosecutors,” said De Lima. “ This means that the testimony of Aranas “was not material.” With Rio N. Araja
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