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Life term for murderer of radio broadcaster

(CMFR/IFEX) - A local court in Cebu City has found guilty the accused killer of radio broadcaster Edgar Amoro, a key witness in the killing of his fellow Pagadian City-based broadcaster, Edgar Damalerio, in May 2002.

In a 19-page decision dated 28 December 2009, Branch 6 Judge Ester Veloso of the Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) sentenced Muhammad "Madix" Maulana to life imprisonment for the 2005 murder of Amoro. The court also ordered Maulana to pay the family of Edgar Amoro P50,000 (approx. US$1,076) as civil indemnity; P100,000 (approx. US$2,151) for moral damages; P25,000 (approx. US$538) for exemplary damages; and P20,000 (approx. US$432) for temperate damages.

The decision was promulgated on 26 January 2010.

The court said Maulana's alibi that he could not have been in Pagadian City during the attack because he was attending a wedding in Binwatan, a town two hours from Pagadian City, did not hold water. "The accused's denial and alibi cannot be sustained in the light of the positive identification of him as the perpetrator of the crime," the court said. "It could not have been physically impossible therefore for the accused to be at Pagadian at the time of the incident."

The court found that on 2 February 2005, Maulana and two accomplices attacked Amoro on his way home from the public high school where he was teaching in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.

The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) learned that Amoro was murdered because of his positive identification of the gunman in the killing of Damalerio in May 2002. Amoro and Edgar Onogue, who were with Damalerio when they were attacked, positively identified police officer Guillermo Wapile as the gunman. Amoro was also actively helping Gemma, Damalerio's widow, in the prosecution of her husband's killer. Damalerio and Amoro used to co-anchor a program on dxKP radio in Pagadian City.

The Amoro family said in an earlier interview that Edgar Amoro had been receiving threats from Wapile and his group since 2002. (Ironically, the death of Amoro occurred when the Damalerio case was being transferred to Cebu for the safety of the witnesses involved in the case.) Wapile was convicted in November 2005.

Amoro's daughter, Edel Grace, told CMFR that the conviction of Maulana brought "relief" to her "troubled mind." "It's the fulfillment of my promise to my dad (to find justice)," she added.

"The successful promulgation of the Amoro murder case, a sequel to the brutal killing of broadcast journalist Edgar Damalerio, serves as another breakthrough in the prosecution service's efficiency in handling media murder cases, notwithstanding the many challenges we face in the name of truth and justice," Edel Grace said in a 26 January statement.

The "Cebu Daily News" reported that Maulana's lawyer will file a motion for reconsideration questioning the decision of the RTC Cebu Branch 6. Lawyer Ferdinand Pablo told "Cebu Daily News" that the basis of the decision, which he described as the "dying declaration" of Amoro that Maulana shot him, "was not supported by any evidence as it was not stated in the complaint-affidavit of Erlinda. The victim immediately died and there was no chance for him to talk to his wife."

Reports said that Maulana will be transferred to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila. Another suspect in the killing of Amoro, Norham Ambol, is still at large.

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