Suspects in Esperat killing evade arrest

Two regional agriculture officials accused of masterminding the brutal murder of journalist Marlene Esperat have apparently evaded arrest.

Reports have quoted Cotabato City police director, Sr. Supt. Willie Dangane that Department of Agriculture Region 12 finance director Osmeña Montañer and accountant Estrella Sabay could have fled the city after learning they would be served warrants of arrest.

“They are no longer here in the City,” Dangane said.

The two have been tagged as the brains behind the murder of Esperat, columnist of a weekly paper in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, who was gunned down by three men as she was having dinner with her family in March 2005.

Last October 21, Judge Melanio Guerrero of the Regional Trial Court in Tacurong City issued a new warrant for the arrest of Montañer and Sabay after the case was transferred there from Cebu City.

Cebu City RTC judge Simeon Dumdum approved last September 28 the petition for the withdrawal of charges filed to allow the murder case to be heard before the Tacurong City RTC. The transfer came after the Court of Appeals in Cebu issued a preliminary injunction preventing the serving of the arrest warrants issued earlier by the Cebu court on February 4, 2008.

Before she was killed, Esperat had exposed alleged corruption in the agriculture department’s Region 12 office.

The three gunmen Gerry Cabagay, Randy Grecia and Estanislao Bismanos have been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

No mastermind has ever been successfully prosecuted in any of the 96 killings of journalist since 1986. #

IFJ-NUJP Media Safety Office

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