DOJ indicts Bantag, others for murder of Percy Lapid | Inquirer News

DOJ indicts Bantag, others for murder of Percy Lapid

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:50 AM March 15, 2023

Suspended BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag. STORY: DOJ indicts Bantag, others for murder of Percy Lapid

Suspended BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag and several others over the October 2022 killing of radio broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and the alleged murder plot “middleman,” New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmate Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña.

A March 9 resolution approved by Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento found probable cause to charge Bantag and his former deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta with murder on two counts; they were named “principals by inducement” in the killings that took place about two weeks apart.


For Lapid’s death, the panel found probable cause to indict confessed gunman Joel Escorial and his alleged accomplices Israel Dimaculangan, Edmon Dimaculangan, and one alias “Orly” as principals by direct participation.


Five persons already serving time in prison, namely, Denver Mayores, Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia, Alfie Peñaredonda, and Christopher Bacoto were tagged as “principals by indispensable cooperation” in the death of Mabasa.

For Palaña’s murder, Labra and Galicia were indicted as principals by inducement along with Bantag and Zulueta.


Inmates Mario Alvarez, Joseph Georfo, Christian Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz, and Joel Reyes were also indicted as principals by direct participation.

Mabasa, known by his broadcast name Percy Lapid, was gunned down on Oct. 3 by two men on a motorcycle near the gate of the Las Piñas City subdivision where he lived.

Palaña died on Oct. 18, a few hours after being implicated by Escorial at a press conference arranged by authorities.

Medicolegal experts from the National Bureau of Investigation initially said they found “no apparent external injuries” on Palaña’s body, suggesting that he died of natural causes.

But after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and the Mabasa family asked forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun to also examine the body, the second autopsy noted signs of asphyxia or suffocation as the cause of death.

Sufficient evidence

In a statement summing up the resolution, the DOJ said that on the part of Bantag, “sufficient circumstantial evidence has been presented to establish that he masterminded the assassination of (Mabasa).”

It cited Rule 133, Section 4 of the 2019 Revised Rules on Evidence which provides that circumstantial evidence is sufficient for conviction if: (a) there is more than one circumstance; (b) the facts from which the interferences derived are proven; and (c) the combination of all circumstances is such as to produce a conviction beyond reasonable doubt.

“[T]he motive of the murder was also sufficiently described—the two videos uploaded by Percival about respondent Bantag and showing the latter’s house with a number of vehicles parked in front. The prosecution noted that the timing of the videos and the commencement of the planning of Percival’s assassination is not coincidental,” it added.


The DOJ said the statements of the respondent inmates — or persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) — corroborated the findings and pointed to Bantag as the one who ordered the killing.

“The plan of the respondents to kill them both, including its execution, was shown by the evidence for the complainants. The prosecution notes that the death of Villamor was intertwined with the death of Percival and that the death of the former was used to cover up the death of the latter,” it said.

The cases are to be filed with the Regional Trial Courts of Las Piñas City (for the Lapid killing) and Muntinlupa City (for the Palaña case).

A previous joint statement by the DOJ and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said the orders to kill the victims were cascaded by Zulueta to Iwahig inmate Mayores, who, in turn, relayed the orders to Labra, Galicia and Peñaredonda — gang leaders at the NBP in Muntinlupa City.

“It was found through the investigation that both [Bantag and Zulueta] were behind the killing of both Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor (Palaña),” the statement read.

They said the inmates’ sworn statements “show a clear and direct line of communication” from Bantag to Zulueta to Mayores, who communicated with gang leader Labra, who then coordinated with Galicia, who eventually orchestrated Mabasa’s killing “through his gang members and their contacts on the outside, ultimately ending with gunman Joel Escorial and his group.”

‘Money trail’

The DOJ and DILG also said the “money trail” described by the prisoners matched the bank activity of Escorial, who claimed the reward for the murder of Mabasa was P550,000.

Bantag’s lawyer, Rocky Balisong, said that his client would file the necessary pleadings after going over the panel’s resolution.

Meanwhile, lawyer Danny Pelagio, legal counsel of the Mabasa family, welcomed the release of the resolution, saying they have been informed about it for some time.

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“We’ve been expecting that for several months already so now, we’re happy that there is already a resolution, and hopefully, justice will be served,” Pelagio told reporters in a phone interview.


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TAGS: Bureau of Corrections, Department of Justice, Gerald Bantag, Jesus Crispin Remulla, Percy Lapid

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