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Man gets prison term for murder of reporter.

IRIGA CITY -- A regional trial court (RTC) here has convicted for murder one of two persons behind the ambushkilling of a local radio reporter in 2010 and sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment.

Judge Timoteo A. Panga Jr. of RTC Branch 60 imposed the punishment on Eric J. Vargas, 38, for the death of Miguel Belen, a field reporter of the citybased radio station dwEB. The decision, dated Feb. 5, was released on Friday.

Vargas was identified by Belen himself as the one driving the motorcycle with a woman killer on July 9, 2010, in the adjoining town of Nabua, also in Camarines Sur province.

Belen, then 48, had eight gunshot wounds in different parts of his body and was brought to Sta. Josefa Hospital here. He remained in critical condition for 22 days until his death on July 31, 2010.

The woman with the gun, was identified as Gina Bagacina, has remained at large. Police suspected Bagacina as a communist rebel.

To this date, police have not determined the motive for the killing of Belen, a former political leader of Rep. Salvio Fortuno of the fifth district of Camarines Sur and a field reporter of dwEB for just two months when he was attacked.

However, a report published by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) days after said one possible angle might be Belen's political affiliation. Before he became a radio field reporter, Belen was a former village chieftain who supported the candidacy of Fortuno, the CMFR said.

From his hospital bed, he identified Vargas as the motorcycle driver from among the photos shown to him by police investigators. Police provided the identification of Bargacina from the description given by the victim.

Vargas has repeatedly maintained his innocence, claiming he was nowhere near the area when the ambush happened.

But the court found him guilty of the crime as he was positively identified by the victim himself.

"The manner with which the victim related the identity of his assailant to the investigating police officer and the congressman (Salvio Fortuno) does not militate against the credibility of the statement of the victim as testified to by SPO2 Hugo (investigating officer)," according to the court ruling.

Belen's widow, Maryjane, said she was relieved that justice was finally served.

Interviewed at her house in Barangay (village) Francia here, Maryjane said the sudden death of her husband had made life difficult for her and their 25yearold daughter, who is now employed at the provincial government.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 10, 2015
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