Autopsy of ‘middleman’ in Percy Lapid killing raises more questions | Inquirer News

Autopsy of ‘middleman’ in Percy Lapid killing raises more questions

Dr. Raquel Fortun STORY: Autopsy of ‘middleman’ in Percy Lapid killing raises more questions


MANILA, Philippines — A leading forensic pathologist, Dr. Raquel Fortun raised questions on Saturday about the autopsy that was done on the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmate who allegedly contracted the Oct. 3 killing of popular radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.

The National Bureau of Investigation made public on Saturday an Oct. 20 memorandum to NBI chief Medardo de Lemos from its medico-legal officer Dr. Marivic Villarin-Floro containing findings from the autopsy of a “middleman” in the assassination plot, Jun Globa Villamor. The autopsy report did not specify the cause of death.


That Villamor died while in prison on Oct. 18, a day after the confessed gunman, Joel Escorial surrendered to the police, raised doubts, particularly among members of Mabasa’s family on whether the person who ordered the killing could still be found.

Lack of timeline

Escorial pointed to Villamor as a middleman in the assassination plot who called him to kill Mabasa for P500,000. The police and Mabasa’s family believe that Villamor could have led them to the mastermind of the killing of the tough-talking broadcaster-vlogger.


In a series of Twitter posts commenting on the NBI’s autopsy, Fortun pointed out the lack of a clear timeline on when the autopsy and the embalming procedures were done on Villamor’s body.

“Nothing in the memo refers to the date of autopsy. Was it Oct 20?” she asked. “The date of the autopsy is something very, very basic. ’Yun lang malabo pa? (Even that detail is vague?)”

Fortun had earlier said that an autopsy should be done before someone is embalmed because that process “contaminates the body” and it will compromise the examination of the remains.

According to Floro’s memo, Villamor was declared dead at 2:05 p.m., 35 minutes after efforts to revive him via CPR failed. Later in the evening, his remains were taken to a funeral home, and “minutes after” it received the body, the embalming process began.

Never invited

It was only on the following day that the authorities, including Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos and Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, told the public in separate news conferences that they learned about Villamor’s death.

Remulla explained that there was initial confusion about the real name of the supposed middleman that Escorial had pointed to. The justice secretary also told reporters that day that authorities would open the autopsy to experts like Fortun to serve as “independent witnesses.”

Fortun told the Inquirer that she was never invited to Villamor’s autopsy, adding that she “would have refused if I were to just observe.”


She also questioned the collection of tissue samples for toxicology and histopathology tests after the body had apparently been embalmed.

“I wonder what results will come out of this? Let’s wait,” Fortun said in Filipino.

A toxicology test determines whether a person ingested drugs or other chemicals. Histopathology is the examination of body tissues to look for signs of disease.

Floro, who is the leader of the NBI’s Task Force Villamor, said Villamor’s body had no gunshot wound. A paraffin test, which normally is used to determine whether a person has fired a gun, yielded negative results.

“There were no apparent sign[s] of external physical injury,” Floro said in her memo.

Villamor, 42, was also found negative for COVID-19 in a rapid antigen test.

Floro noted that “the heart showed a hemorrhagic area over the left ventricle. The mitral valve is sclerotic, which could indicate previous illness or valvular infection.”

‘Postmortem lividity’

Another finding that puzzled Fortun was that the “postmortem lividity” observed was supposedly “consistent with the time of the death,” despite the examination being done after the body had already been embalmed.

Lividity refers to the discoloration of the skin that appears bluish or purple after death.

The lawyer for Mabasa’s family, Bertini Causing, had said that the Villamor died under a “fishy circumstance.”

A Bureau of Corrections (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.

Villamor, a townmate of Escorial from Javier, Leyte, has been held at the NBP since 2019 to serve time for murder, frustrated murder, and violation of the election gun ban in 2013.

Abalos said that if an autopsy found foul play in the death of Villamor, he would demand that “those responsible be held to account.”

Remulla, on orders of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr/, has suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag to give way to a fair and impartial investigation of the inmate’s death.

The Philippine National Police has given piecemeal information to the media about its investigation of Mabasa’s killing, leaving some questions unanswered.

Based on statements by various PNP officials, principally Southern Police District director Brig. Gen. Kirby John Kraft, and mostly from Escorial’s extrajudicial confession, P550,000 had been deposited in the gunman’s bank account.

Backup gunmen

According to Kraft, Escorial also deposited money from this amount to the bank accounts of his accomplices.

Aside from Villamor, the others are brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, who were supposed to be backup gunmen; a certain Orly, or Orlando, who drove Escorial’s getaway motorcycle; and Christopher Bacoto, the alleged “second middleman,” who is being secured by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology awaiting the resolution of his drug case.

Villamor’s cousin, Jose Palana Villamor, another NBP inmate who was convicted of kidnapping in 2016, was transferred to police custody.

Remulla said Villamor’s cousin could be a person of interest, or a witness, as he could know the individuals involved in Mabasa’s killing.

More questions

Several questions still unanswered by the police include when did Escorial got the call from Villamor for the hit, how he got acquainted with Bacoto, who is apparently not cooperating in the investigation, and when Bacoto was arrested for his drug case.

A murder complaint has been filed only against Escorial, the Dimaculangan brothers and Orly. In a television interview on Friday night, Kraft said investigators had not yet obtained Escorial’s cell phone from his wife.

“Escorial’s wife is still not in our custody. We cannot force them to go to us, they should voluntarily come to us,” he said.

Kraft said the PNP had coordinated with Escorial’s bank and the Anti-Money Laundering Council to identify the person who deposited the P550,000 into the gunman’s account.

Investigators were also asking for a copy of the closed-circuit television footage from the bank to help them identify the depositor.


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Police sets record straight: There are 2 middlemen in Percy Lapid’s slay

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