Suspect in journalist’s killing surrenders to police

Source: Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Quezon City

(CMFR/IFEX) – On 13 September 2004, two years and four months after the death of Pagadian City journalist Edgar Damalerio, the main suspect in his killing, former police officer Guillermo Wapille, surrendered to Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Edgardo Aglipay in Camp Crame.

The arrest came more than 12 months into the media campaign “Operation Countdown”, which has called for action at the highest levels of the PNP to bring the killer to justice.

Wapille was previously detained by the police in Pagadian City after having been identified by witnesses as the gunman in the slaying of Damalerio. He escaped while in custody before an arrest warrant was served.

Damalerio was killed on 13 May 2002 as he rushed home from a press conference. He was managing editor of the weekly newspaper “Zamboanga Scribe”, a commentator for DXKP-Pagadian radio station, host of the cable TV programme “Enkwentro” (Encounter) and a correspondent for the “Mindanao Gold Star”. Damalerio was an award-winning journalist who was well known for his reports exposing the corruption of government officials. He died of a single
gunshot wound to the chest as he was being driven home by one of the witnesses to the killing, Edgar Amoro.

According to the PNP news release, two weeks of negotiations and police operations in Western Mindanao (Region 9) preceded Wapille’s surrender in the southern province of Laguna.

According to Inday Espina-Varona, chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Wapille denied that he was the gunman. He said that he plans to issue an affidavit to identify the “mastermind” behind Damalerio’s murder. Varona added that bail would not be granted to Wapille since murder is a non-bailable offence. An earlier report said that Wapille had tried to negotiate the conditions for his surrender, including that he be allowed to
post bail.

Gemma Damalerio, the journalist’s widow, welcomed this latest development and thanked the members of the media for their continued support. “This is only the beginning. We don’t know what will happen but I’m hoping that this will be solved,” she said.

For further information, contact Melinda Quintos de Jesus or Sweet Mary J. Cawicaan, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), 2nd Floor, Ateneo Professional Schools, 130 H.V. dela Costa St., Salcedo Village, Makati City, 1227, Philippines, tel: +63 2 894 1314/1326, fax: +63 2 840 0889, e-mail: cmfr@surfshop.net.ph, Internet: http://www.cmfr.com.ph