|Journalist's killing nears resolution|
|Written by Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility|
|Thursday, 19 July 2007 03:00|
After three long years, the wheels of justice may finally catch up with the killers of an Ilocano broadcast journalist, one of the 33 journalists killed in the line of duty during the Arroyo administration.
Currently being tried in Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 54, the Roger Mariano case is moving towards a resolution. Two witnesses have positively identified Senior Police Officer 4 Apolonio Medrano and Basilio Yadao as the assassins of the slain journalist.
Medrano was a member of the Philippine National Police Criminal Intelligence and Detection Group and was assigned at the Cordillera Autonomous Region at the time of Mariano's death.
Arnold Guerrero, private prosecutor of Mariano's family, believes that the case could be resolved within the year, after four or five more hearings. He believes that "the prosecution has a strong case."
In the July 18, 2007 hearing, Isidro Madamba Jr., one of the prosecution's eyewitness to the crime, was cross-examined by the defense, headed by Atty. Eddie Tamondong.
Madamba narrated that he was passing by the road onboard his car when the incident took place. Madamba said that he could not identify with certainty the other two suspects since he only saw their backs when he passed by the road. However, he was able to partially see the gunman's face when the latter glanced towards him. When asked by the judge to say if the person he saw that night was inside the courtroom, he pointed to Yadao.
Earlier, Alvin Turingan, a tricycle driver, had positively identified Medrano as one of the killers.
Turingan said he was driving on the highway behind Mariano who was on a motorcycle. He saw Medrano take a shot at Mariano. He added that Medrano, along with the other suspect, boarded a van after Mariano fell. Aside from Medrano, Turingan said that he also saw a short man, fitting Yadao's description, at the scene of the crime.
A three-year old case
The case was transferred to the Manila RTC from the RTC Branch 15 in Laoag City after the Supreme Court, acting on a 13 July 2005 petition from Mariano's family, released a resolution dated 3 April 2006 ordering the transfer.
In the petition for change of venue, Guerero cited safety concerns for the witnesses and also the need for a more neutral court. According to some reports, Mariano's wife, Alma, feared that witnesses to her husband's murder might be pressured, given the alleged influence of Medrano in the province.
The petition for the change of venue was also endorsed by the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, Inc., which interceded with the Supreme Court for the prompt transfer of the case.
On June 19, 2006, Judge Benjamin Turgano sent Mariano's case records to the RTC executive judge in Manila.
Judge Manuel M. Barrios then directed the warden of the Ilocos Norte Provincial Jail on July 3, 2006 to transfer Medrano and Yadao to Manila.
The two suspects were remanded to the Manila City Jail on July 25, 2006, just two days before their arraignment.
On Nov. 16, 2004, after examining the testimonies of Turingan, Madamba and the investigation of the police, Judge Francisco Quilala of the San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte Municipal Trial Court found probable cause to place Medrano and Yadao under custody, issuing a warrant of arrest and no bail.
Medrano was arrested on the same day, Nov. 16, 2004, which was also the day Rogelio Pambid, mayor of Marcos, Ilocos Norte, was killed. Medrano is also currently on trial for the murder of Pambid, who was gunned down in front of his daughter's business establishment while alighting from his vehicle.
Yadao surrendered to police on Nov. 18, 2004.
On Dec. 11, 2004, five drunken men claiming to be policemen barged into the Casa Llanes Hotel in Laoag looking for Emilio Llanes, who was then helping investigate the killing of Mariano. When Carlos Llanes, the hotel's manager told the five unidentified men in civilian clothes that his brother was out of town, two of the men mauled him. Emilio stopped handling the case. Lauren Polintang, Mariano's nephew, said that they had a hard time looking for a lawyer in Ilocos to handle the case.
Guerrero, a Manila-based lawyer who was a friend of Mariano, took over the case from Emilio Llanes.
Mariano, a hard-hitting journalist
Roger Mariano, 44, was one of the most critical broadcasters in Ilocos Norte. Local officials feared and loathed being the subject of Mariano's hard-hitting commentaries in his popular radio program, say Mariano's colleagues.
"Roger Mariano in Action" was aired over dzJC Radyo Natin-Aksyon Radyo. Mariano – known as a fearless and critical journalist-- started in radio broadcasting in 1990. He would discuss the most controversial issues of the day in his program. More often than not, local officials were the subjects of his broadcasts.
On the night of July 31, 2004, Mariano announced over the air that he would be reporting a major story on a corruption scam he had uncovered in his next broadcast. Mariano never got the chance to do so; he was killed that same night. He was gunned down between 7:30 to 8:00 p.m. (local time) by then unknown assailants while riding home on his motorcycle after his radio program. He was shot several times in the back and head.
Mariano was wearing a trademark belt bag that contained a disk with information about the alleged scams in a local electric company. His belt bag was missing when his body was recovered. Mariano's wristwatch and wallet were untouched.
From 1999 until his death, Mariano chaired the Board of Directors of the Peralta Multi- Purpose Cooperative. He also served as the chair of the Tomato Growers Association. Mariano had a degree in Economics from Laoag City's Northwestern University.
He started his career as a radio commentator for dzVR Bombo Radyo right after college. Mariano was known to be a critical commentator on government affairs. He usually tackled issues regarding the city police's handling of the anti-jueteng (illegal numbers game) drive. He also discussed the alleged mismanagement and supposedly illegal transactions of the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative.