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Police arrest accused in 2005 murder of journalist

(CMFR/IFEX) - Local police arrested one of the alleged gunmen in the 2005 killing of journalist Philip Agustin on 13 May 2009 in Pampanga, a province approximately 81 kms from Manila.

The Philippine National Police in Central Luzon arrested Nilo "Boy" Morete in Poblacion village, Mabalacat town, Pampanga at around 3:30 p.m. (local time) on 13 May.

Agustin, publisher and editor of the local weekly newspaper "Starline Times Recorder", was shot dead in his house in Dingalan, Aurora on 10 May 2005. He sustained a gunshot wound near the left ear. Aurora is approximately 121 kms from Manila.

Former Dingalan town mayor Jaime Ylarde allegedly ordered Morete and Manuel Alday to kill Agustin because of his reports on the alleged misuse of the town's calamity funds and missing relief goods. The story implicated Ylarde and other local government officials. The story was printed in Agustin's paper on the day he was killed.

Central Luzon police had surrendered Morete to the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC). Manila RTC Branch 6 judge Jansen Rodriguez has been handling the trial after the Supreme Court ordered the case to be transferred to Manila from Baler, Aurora RTC in 2006.

According to Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists (FFFJ) legal counsel Prima Jesusa Quinsayas, the arrest of Morete will reactivate the case (Criminal Case No. 06-245624) against the alleged killers and their accomplices. The FFFJ is a coalition of six media groups formed in 2003 to address the killing of journalists by assisting in the prosecution of their killers, among other activities.

In December 2008, Judge Rodriguez dismissed the charges against the alleged mastermind Ylarde after the daughter of Agustin, Rosebelle, withdrew her complaint. The case against the alleged killers and their accomplices has been archived since January 2009 because all the accused are at large.

But Quinsayas added that, "The prosecution must file a motion seeking continuation of criminal proceedings."

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) recently announced rewards for the suspected killers of journalists. DILG has allocated P150,000 each for the capture of Morete and Alday.

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