THE prosecution is winding down its presentation on the Rogelio “Roger” Mariano murder case, one of two cases of slain journalists being tried in Manila.

Yesterday, prosecution lawyers called National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) doctor Ludivico Lagat to the witness stand in order to validate Mariano’s autopsy report. Lagat was the one who conducted Mariano’s medico-legal examination.

However, Lagat did not answer the subpoena as he had already retired from the NBI. Instead, the prosecution plans to subpoena the chief of the NBI’s medico-legal division when the hearing resumes on October 10. It plans to wrap up its presentation by summoning two journalists who made a documentary on Mariano’s killing.

Mariano’s case is being tried at the Manila Regional Trial Court, Branch 6, which is also hearing the case of another slain journalist, publisher-editor Philip Agustin.

Mariano worked as a broadcaster for Ilocos Norte-based radio station dzJC Radyo Natin-Aksyon Radyo. He was gunned down on July 31, 2004 while riding home on his motorcycle after his radio program, “Roger Mariano in action.”

Read the Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) primer.

Mariano said that he was going to break a major story before he signed off on his program the night he was killed. He was wearing a belt bag that contained a disk with information about alleged scams at a local electric company in Ilocos.

Only his belt bag was found missing after his dead body was recovered. Mariano’s wristwatch and wallet were untouched.

The FFFJ says that Mariano was known to be a critical commentator on government affairs, tackling issues such as the city police’s handling of its anti-jueteng drive and the alleged mismanagement and supposedly illegal transactions of the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative. He started his career as a radio commentator for dzVR Bombo Radyo right after college.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) counts Mariano among the 33 journalists killed under the Arroyo administration and the 61 journalists killed since 1986. The National Union of Journalists tallies 53 slain journalists under the Arroyo administration, and 90 slain journalists since 1986.

Of the 33 cases, only two — those of Edgar Damalerio and Marlene Esperat — have resulted in the conviction of the killers. Of the remaining cases, only five cases are in court. CMFR Deputy Director Luis Teodoro says that some problems in solving journalist killings include the lack of witnesses and the Philippine National Police’s definition of “solved cases” where cases are considered solved once a case has been filed in court.

Four months after Mariano was killed, a murder case was filed against Senior Police Officer 4 Apolonio Medrano, Basilio Yadao and John Does in the Regional Trial Court Branch 15 in Laoag City.

Medrano and Yadao were arrested after a warrant of arrest was issued based on the testimony of Alvin Turingan, a tricycle driver who witnessed the ambush. They were detained at the Ilocos Norte Provincial Jail while the other suspects remain at large.

In July 2005, Mariano’s wife Alma sought a change of venue for the trial due to safety concerns for the witness and in order to have a more neutral court. She reportedly feared that the witnesses might be pressured given the alleged influence of SPO4 Medrano in the province.

Her petition was strongly endorsed by the FFFJ, which interceded with the Supreme Court for the prompt transfer of the case. The Supreme Court’s First Division ordered the transfer of court records from Laoag RTC Branch 15 to Manila in a resolution dated April 3, 2006.

Mariano’s case records were subsequently transferred to the Manila Regional Trial Court, while the two suspects were forwarded to the Manila City Jail.

Mariano’s niece Lauren Polintang believes that the prosecution has a strong case. She hopes that both defendants will be convicted of killing her uncle.

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October 5th, 2007 at 11:24 pm

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