INVESTIGATION UPDATE: No. 1
I’ve been watching the police investigation into the murder of journalists George and Maricel Vigo. It’s been a week since they’ve been killed and here are some interesting developments in the case . . . if you can call them developments:
A. Two days after George and Maricel were killed, the chief of police of Central Mindanao announced that they were murdered by the New People’s Army (NPA), the communist rebel group here. The police’s version of the story is that George was a communist who began sharing information with the military, and was thus killed by an NPA hitman.
B. This NPA hitman, according to the police, is Dionisio Madanggit. There are several arrest warrants out for Madanggit because he’s been linked to previous murders. Strangely, just two days after they were killed, the police identified him as the gunman. The police have brought forward no witnesses to support this claim, but records I’ve obtained today indicate that Madanggit has actually been working as a hitman for the military for some time. An investigation by a human rights groups has tagged Madanggit as a hired gun in the murder of several farm worker organizers here in Cotabato this year.
C. The NPA has come up with an official statement saying that Madanggit is not an NPA member and is in fact working for the military.
D. A witness I interviewed saw the killings from a distance of 7 to 10 meters. (This double murder was carried out in a busy street in broad daylight.) He says four men on two motorcycles drove up to George and Maricel, who were also riding tandem on a motorcycle. Without stopping, a gunman called out George’s name, then fired several rounds into him and Maricel. The assailants had their faces covered with baseball caps and handkerchiefs and were therefore not recognisable to this witness.
E. This witness has been visited a few times by police, who want him to sign an affadavit saying that the police’s suspect, Dionisio Madanggit, is indeed the killer. But the witness refuses because he says he could not see the faces of the gunmen. Today, June 26, the police took Maricel’s mother to the police station, saying they wanted to get some information from her. She went alone, as she knew some of the officers. The police said they just wanted to make a document saying that she is indeed the mother of Maricel, that she lived at such-and-such address, and that they needed just a little more personal information.
Maricel’s mother doesn’t read or speak English, and the police had her sign doucments that were in English. What the police failed to tell her was that she was in fact signing a criminal suit against Dionisio Madanggit, who the police have concluded to be the killer. So, in seven days, the police can now say they can close the investigation!
So, on paper, Maricel’s mother has now filed a case against Madanggit, the police’s own supsect, who they dubiously pulled out of a hat two days after the killings. The legal document that Maricel’s mother signed was in English, and no mention was made that she was in fact giving the final signature so that the case against Madanggit could go ahead.
G. From start to finish, there seems to be an organized whitewash of the killings. By focusing on the supsect Madanggit, the police can ignore other possible masterminds of this brutal killings.
H. A number of prominent attorneys here who have filed cases against the younger brothers of Emmanuel Piñol, a powerful politician here in North Cotabato, have been receiving death threats. They are being accused of being communists. A week before he died, George related to a few close friends that the military had given him death threats, and that he was afraid. But he took no other precautions, because he felt he had done no harm.
George and Maricel’s murder happened only two days after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced a major military campaign to crush the communist insurgency. People here believe that by targeting prominent journalists and community workers like the Vigos, they can send a chilling message to the rest of the people doing similar work.
Watch this space for more updates. Meanwhile, I welcome all comments and suggestions.