International media groups laud convictions in Esperat case
Quezon City (8 October) -- INTERNATIONAL media organizations lauded the conviction and sentencing Friday of the killers of Sultan Kudarat Marlene Garcia-Esperat but urged the speedy arrest and prosecution of the masterminds.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also urged authorities to “redouble their efforts in investigating the many unresolved journalist murders in the Philippines.”
“While we're pleased that important steps have been taken in prosecuting the killers of our colleague Marlene Garcia-Esperat, we urge authorities to complete their work in this case by trying those who are accused of ordering this terrible crime,” said Joel Simon, CPJ's executive director.
Cebu regional trial court Judge Eric Menchavez sentenced Estanislao Bismanos, Gerry Cabayag and Randy Grecia to life and said the "death penalty would have been imposed (on them) had it not been abolished."
He also ordered the three to pay Esperat's family P175,000 in civil damages.
Esperat, 45, was shot in the head on March 24, 2005 in front of her two children in their home in Tacurong.
Following the verdict, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez ordered the reinstatement of murder charges against Department of Agriculture officials Osmeña Montaner and Estrella Sabay, who had been originally included in the case only to have prosecutors drop the charges against them last year.
But their alleged role in Esperat’s murder was again brought up in the course of the trial, which had been transferred to Cebu City.
The Reporters Without Borders said the convictions were “a significant first step” but added that finding the gunmen guilty “is not enough.”
The group welcomed the decision to reinstate the case against Montaner and Sabay, saying this was “the only way to put an end to the impunity prevailing in the Philippines in this kind of case.” (PIA) [top]