Mabasa brother says 2nd ‘middleman’ uncooperative
The alleged second “middleman” linked to the Oct. 3 killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa is refusing to cooperate in the investigation of the assassination, the radioman-vlogger’s brother said on Friday.
After officials disclosed on Thursday that an inmate at New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Jun Globa Villamor, the alleged first middleman died in prison on Tuesday, the police said the second, Christopher Bacoto, had been found safe in the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) awaiting resolution of a drug case.
The confessed gunman, Joel Escorial, who surrendered to the police on Monday had told police that Villamor and Bacoto were two of his five accomplices. He said it was Villamor who had contracted him to kill Mabasa for P550,000. Investigators believed Villamor could have led them to the mastermind of the assassination.
In various interviews on Friday, journalist Roy Mabasa, the broadcaster’s younger brother, said that based on his talks with the investigators, Bacoto was not helping the police in finding the mastermind and was asking for his lawyer.
“This second one is already fully secured, according to the police, and he is in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. The sad thing here is that he is not cooperating,” Mabasa said.
He said he learned about the involvement of both Villamor and Bacoto in the killing of his brother from Escorial’s extrajudicial confession.
His lawyer, Bertini Causing, said the Mabasa family was “confident” an “alternative evidence” could still be found that could lead to the mastermind after Villamor died in “fishy circumstance” on Oct. 18, a day after Escorial surrendered.
“We are still hopeful that there are other remedies that we can rely on. These remedies are other persons, including Mr. Bacoto,” Causing told the Inquirer.
He said he could ask the court when the case comes to trial to order Bacoto to testify and cite him in contempt if he refused.
“As of now, we cannot [really see] whether Mr. Bacoto would be telling material facts that would lead us to the final demand of justice in this case. We just hope that Mr. Bacoto will cooperate with us,” Causing said.
Aside from a lack of cooperation from Bacoto, the police are also having a hard time getting evidence—particularly obtaining closed-circuit television footage from a mall and another from a car dealership—according to Causing.
Brig. Gen. Kirby John Kraft, chief of the Southern Police District, said BJMP Jail Director Allan Iral said the BJMP had already secured Bacoto.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos on Friday also ordered tightened security for Escorial, who is in the custody of the Philippine National Police at an undisclosed location.
“We must make sure that he will remain safe because he is the key in resolving this case,” Abalos said.
Kraft said Escorial, 39, was under the protection of the Special Investigation Task Group- Percy Lapid.
BuCor chief suspended
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said that on orders of President Marcos, he suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag to give way to “a fair impartial investigation” of the death of Villamor. He said he appointed former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr. as Bantag’s replacement.
According to BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag, its Health Service reported that Villamor’s body bore “no signs of physical external injuries, which probably indicates a natural cause of death or no signs of foul play.”
“However, we are still awaiting the official and final autopsy result, including a toxicology test,” he said.
The BuCor report said Villamor was brought to the NBP Hospital around 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 18 after he was found unconscious at his Dorm 3B cell inside the maximum security compound of NBP.
Remulla said there was initial confusion about the real name of Villamor. He said the police were looking for a Crisanto Palana Villamor but after going through prison and court records, they established that Jun Globa Villamor and Crisanto Palana Villamor were the same person.
Villamor had been serving time since 2019 at NBP for murder, frustrated murder and violation of an election gun ban in the killing of an official of the Land Registration Authority in Tagaytay City in 2013.
According to BuCor documents, Villamor was a native of Javier, Leyte province, which is also Escorial’s hometown.
Kraft said that as early as Oct. 18, investigators had coordinated with both BuCor and the BJMP to validate the identities of the inmates identified by Escorial.
“The PNP is a separate agency from the BuCor and BJMP. We cannot just go inside their jail facilities to get hold of one of their inmates and secure them,” he said.
Cousin in custody
Chaglag said they had informed the PNP that they had no Crisanto Palana Villamor in their custody but they secured two convicts with the surname of Villamor: Jun Villamor, and his cousin, Jose Palana Villamor.
PNP public information office chief Col. Redrico Maranan said that the PNP now had custody of Villamor’s cousin.
He said the task force had moved him to a safe location with “round-the-clock security.”
Causing said the Mabasa family was happy that Mr. Marcos had stepped into the case by ordering Bantag’s suspension.
“It is now evident that the President is concerned about the matter,” Causing said. “It brings in thousands of weight in order for authorities to move and for the moral courage of all others [to] be spiked up in order to lead to the direction of looking for the truth.”
Mabasa’s brother, Roy, earlier expressed dismay at the President’s lack of “sincerity” in his response to his brother’s death.
Escorial said P140,000 of the P550,000 promised by Villamor as payment for the hit was deposited in his back account.
Kraft said that they were in contact with the bank after Escorial gave authorization to the police to gain access to his account.
He clarified that not all of the money deposited in Escorial’s account went to the gunman, saying that various amounts—P20,000, P40,000 and P80,000—went to the other accomplices.
Escorial had earlier also identified two brothers and another man—Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and a certain Orly or Olando—who had taken part in the assassination plot.
Mabasa, 63, was a sharp critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte and the policies and officials of the Marcos administration.
He was shot twice to the head on Oct. 3 while driving to his studio in Las Piñas City to broadcast his “Lapid Fire” program on dwBL radio station that is livestreamed on his YouTube and Facebook accounts.
—WITH REPORTS FROM DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN AND BEATRICE PINLAC OF INQUIRER.NET
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