DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/04 November) — Senior State Prosecutor Leo Dacera, one of the lead prosecutors in the cases filed against the Ampatuans following the November 23, 2009 massacre, succumbed to heart attack Thursday morning, Justice Secretary de Lima announced in Manila.
Dacera, a native of General Santos City, was also head of the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program.
Relatives of the victims killed in what is now known as “Ampatuan Massacre” were at a loss over Dacera’s demise. At least 58 persons were killed, 32 of them media workers, one of whose remains’ have yet to be recovered.
Reynafe Momay-Castillo, who is still searching for the remains of her father, Reynaldo “Bebot” Momay, photographer of Midland Review in Tacurong City, asked, “why is this happening? why is this happening?”
Dacera’s colleagues in the Department of Justice were also at a loss. Kidapawan Prosecutor Al Calica said he received a text message from Manila at around 6:43 this morning, about Dacera’s death. He said he was informed Dacera was found lifeless in his workroom at around 5 a.m. and was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced dead.
Lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, said “personally he’s a great loss because as a state prosecutor, he was trusted, hardworking and dedicated. Truly a public servant.”
The Center for Community Journalism and Development in a statement signed by Executive Director Red Batario said “today is a dark day for Philippine media” for the loss of a “dear friend and pillar of hope for surviving kin and witnesses to some of the most gruesome murders of Filipino journalists.”
Batario said Dacera’s untimely passing, “had dealt us a devastating blow, casting a long shadow on our continuing quest for justice for slain colleagues.”
Batario noted that in the past eight years, they have had the “singular privilege of working with a man whose calm demeanor and quiet dignity signaled a seriousness of purpose and an aversion to publicity. Whether it was to surreptitiously spirit out a threatened witness from a troubled place in Mindanao to a safe house in Manila or consulting with journalists and media organizations on how to pursue cases of media murders, Leo Dacera had always demonstrated grace under pressure. He was among a rare breed of civil servants who never reckoned time as a measure of work done, fielding phone calls even at odd hours and never failing to give advice or offer a shoulder to lean on when things got a bit rough,” Batario said. (MindaNews)