Murder raps filed vs Bantag, others linked to Percy Lapid slay
Updated @ 5:45 p.m., November 7, 2022
MANILA, Philippines – Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director general Gerald Bantag is facing a murder complaint for allegedly giving the order to kill Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, as well as the supposed middleman in the case.
Complaints have likewise been lodged by the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation against BuCor Deputy Security Officer (DSO) Ricardo Zulueta and other persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) linked to the death of Mabasa and alleged conspirator Cristito Palaña, earlier referred to as Jun or Crisanto Villamor.
The complaints were filed before the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Department of Justice on Monday morning.
“It was found through the investigation that both director general Gerald Bantag and DSO Ricardo Zulueta were behind the killing of both Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor (Cristito Palaña),” NBI special action unit investigator Eugene Javier said in a news conference Monday.
He later spelled out the complaints filed against the top BuCor officials.
“For the murder of Percival Carag Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid, we have charged director general Gerald Quitaleg Bantag, DSO Ricardo Zulueta as principals by inducement,” Javier said.
PDLs Denver Batungbakal Mayores, Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosa Galicia, and Alfie Peñaredonda were also tagged as principals by indispensable cooperation for Lapid’s assassination.
Unveiling a chain of people allegedly involved in Lapid’s slay case, Javier said the “sworn statements of the PDLs show a clear and direct line of communication from the director general and DSO Ricardo Zulueta to Denver Mayores who communicated with Aldrin Galicia who then orchestrated and executed the killing of Percy Lapid through his gang members and his gang members’ contacts on the outside ultimately ending with gunman Joel Escorial and his group.”
Javier further noted that Bantag and Zulueta are also facing additional murder raps for Palaña’s death.
Labra, Galicia, and other PDLs Mario Germones Alvarez and Joseph Medel Georfo were named as principals by indispensable cooperation, while PDLs Christam Dizon Ramac, Ricky Lamigo Salgado, Ronnie Pabustan Dela Cruz, and Joel Alog Reyes are “charged as principals by direct participation.”
Authorities also revealed a flow chart, illustrating Bantag and Zulueta’s connection to the PDLs supposedly behind the death of Palaña, who is believed to have suffocated by a plastic bag.
“This unique circumstance shows that the order came from a high official of the BuCor. One usually seeks refuge and protection from his own gang members. The fact that they killed one of their own means and indicates that there were instructions from the top and the gang simply had no choice but to execute,” Javier added.
‘Totality of all facts’
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remula said Bantag’s link to the death of Mabasa and Palaña was pinned down through the affidavits of a number of persons of interest in the case.
“The principle that we adopted here in charging the mastermind is the totality of all the facts given to us by all the witnesses and all the circumstances attendant to the killing. So it’s a totality test,” he said.
Remulla noted that “the totality of all the acts points out to the participation of and responsibility of those being charged.”
He then pointed out that no subpoena was issued since that will come after the filing of the cases.
“This is an exceptional case. None of these people would have talked if Gen. Bantag remained as the head of the BuCor. The fear of Gen. Bantag is just tremendous and unbelievable from the eyes of these PDLs, so we thought it best in conducting the investigation that we let Gen. Bantag answer the charges formally with the fiscal’s office,” he said.
Bantag, who was appointed as top BuCor official by former President Rodrigo Duterte, was among the 160 persons of interest earlier named by the PNP.
He was a frequent target in Mabasa’s hard-hitting commentaries on DWBL 1242’s “Lapid Fire.”
Mabasa was ambushed and gunned down near the gate of a Las Piñas City subdivision last October 3.
Javier claimed that Bantag “had a clear motive to effect the murders.”
“For Percy Lapid (Mabasa), it was the continued exposé by the latter of the issues against the former on his show ‘Lapid Fire.’ This is evident from the video sent by DSO Zulueta to both Alvin Labra and Aldrin Galicia,” he detailed.
Javier then pointed out that Bantag’s motive for Palaña’s death was “the attempt to cover up” Mabasa’s murder.
Remulla later echoed this sentiment, noting that a video of Mabasa was sent to those ordered to do the hit job.
“Ang unang unang sinabi namin sa statement noong simula pa lang, noong inuutos palang ito, pinadala na iyong video ni Percy Lapid (Mabasa) sa mga gagawa ng krimen,” he said.
(The very first thing we said in our earlier statement is that when this was ordered, Mabasa’s video was sent to those who were told to commit the crime.)
‘We will give him due process’
Remulla vowed to furnish Bantag with the necessary documents to inform him about the charges and testimonies against him, so he can “defend himself […] and answer intelligently.”
“We will give him due process. He will have the right to counsel as all people are entitled to the right to counsel,” he said.
Remulla also bared that they are thoroughly looking into Bantag and Zulueta’s possible involvement in other prisoners’ deaths recorded under their watch.
During Bantag’s term, deaths of prisoners per year were at its highest since 1990.
INQUIRER.net has sought Bantag’s side following the murder complaint lodged against him but he has yet to respond as of posting time. – with reports from Kristelle Razon, trainee
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