One of 2 Mabasa slay suspects missing
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to reach out to the family of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Deputy Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta, whose whereabouts remain unknown.
“Yes, I’m asking the NBI to contact his family,” Remulla told reporters on Thursday.
Zulueta is one of the alleged masterminds behind the murders of radio broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and alleged middleman Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña. He supposedly relayed the kill orders for Mabasa and Villamor to gang leaders inside New Bilibid Prison.
The NBI earlier said that efforts to locate Zulueta were ongoing after he was reported absent without leave from the BuCor and in hiding from authorities.
Absent at hearing
Zulueta and the other alleged mastermind, suspended BuCor Director Gen. Gerald Bantag, were no-shows during the Department of Justice’s preliminary investigation of the murder complaints on Wednesday.
But while Bantag’s lawyer, Rocky Balisong, attended the proceedings on his behalf, no counsel represented Zulueta, according to Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit, who is part of the three-member prosecution panel.
Remulla believed that the error on Bantag’s middle name in the subpoena would not affect the murder complaints against the former BuCor official and several other respondents.
“It’s not a fatal mistake. I’m looking at the case right now… It was not a grievous error,” he said.
Guhit had expressed the same opinion on Wednesday, saying the error would not affect the case, especially because Balisong had received a new subpoena for his client on the same day.
Balisong on Wednesday said that the subpoena he received on Monday requiring his client to attend the hearing had been addressed to a “Gerald Soriano Bantag.”
Pointing out that Bantag’s middle name was Quitaleg, the lawyer said the error was a “fatal” defect in the case as the name referred to a different individual.
Remulla also said that authorities were continuing to work on the case. “Case buildup is ongoing even if the case has been filed already. You know these are not simple cases. These are very novel cases in terms of the way the case was solved and the way that the evidence came into being. That’s why the work should be nonstop,” he added.
At the same time, he said he was not keen on allowing the preliminary investigation to be covered by the media. “The respondents still have privacy rights due to presumption of innocence. If we do that it’s like we are condemning them already. We don’t really want to make a spectacle of that proceeding,” he explained.