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PIA Press Release

New York-based press freedom body hails arrest writs vs journalist slay brains

Manila (15 February) -- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has welcomed the arrest warrants issued by the Cebu regional trial court against the two suspected masterminds in the 2005 killing of journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat as "a significant step forward for the Philippines" in its resolve to stop extrajudicial killings in the country.

The CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization based in New York, that promotes press freedom and defends the rights of journalists.

The CPJ has furnished Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye a copy of its letter to Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Avelino Razon Jr. calling for the immediate apprehension of the two accused masterminds.

"The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the arrest warrants issued for two suspects in the 2005 murder of journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat. This is a significant step forward for the Philippines, where no mastermind has been convicted in the killing of a journalist since CPJ began documenting journalist deaths in 1992. We now ask that you ensure the men, the two officials accused of ordering Garcia-Esperat's death, are apprehended quickly," the letter signed by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said.

Last Feb. 4, the Cebu regional trial court issued the arrest warrants against Osmeņa Montaņer and Estrella Sabay who were implicated by witnesses as the alleged masterminds in the killing that occurred in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat on March 24, 2005.

The trial of the Esperat case was transferred from Tacurong to Cebu City after the Supreme Court granted the prosecution's request for a change of venue that greatly helped in getting witnesses to testify against the suspects under the government's witness protection program.

Eight months after the killing, the Cebu court convicted and meted with life imprisonment Randy Garcia, Gerry Cabayag and Estanislao Bismanos who admitted they were hired for P120,000 to kill Esperat.

Last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered the reopening of the investigation against alleged brains Montaner and Sabay, finance officer and accountant, respectively, of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Region 12, who were earlier excluded from the killing of Esperat by the Regional Trial Court in Tacurong City.

Esperat, a radio broadcaster and former employee of the DA, had exposed numerous cases of graft and corruption committed by public officials including allegations against Montaner and Sabay. (PIA SarGen) [top]

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