MANILA, Philippines – Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag, a BuCor official, and 10 others are facing murder complaints for the deaths of hard-hitting broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.
On Monday, November 7, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed two separate complaints before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Bantag, BuCor’s Directorate for Security and Operations Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, and various persons deprived of liberty (PDL).
Besides the complaint filed for Lapid’s death, the authorities also filed another complaint in relation to the death of Villamor, the alleged middleman in the Lapid case who was reported killed inside the New Bilibid Prison. Bantag and Zulueta are facing complaints for the deaths of both Lapid and Villamor.
“First, for the murder of PERCIVAL CARAG MABASA, better known as PERCY LAPID, we have charged DIRECTOR GENERAL GERALD QUITALEG BANTAG, DSO (Directorate for Security and Operations) RICARDO SORIANO ZULUETA as principals by inducement,” the authorities said in a joint statement.
“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.”
In total, the following are facing complaints for Lapid’s death:
- Suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag
- DSO Ricardo Zulueta
- PDLs Denver Batungbakal Mayores, Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosia Galicia, and Alfie Peñaredonda (principals by indispensable cooperation).
For Villamor’s death:
- Suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag and DSO Ricardo Zulueta (as principals by inducement).
- PDLs Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosa Galicia, Mario Germones Alvarez, and Joseph Medel Georfo (as principals by indispensable cooperation).
- PDLs Christam Dizon Ramac, Ricky Lamigo Salgado, Ronnie Pabustan dela Criz, and Joel Alog Reyes (as principals by direct participation).
The new complaint for Lapid’s death can be consolidated or merged with the existing one against the initial suspects.
Bantag and Zulueta are among the BuCor officials who were acquitted of homicide charges over the death of 10 PDLs in the Parañaque City Jail explosion in 2016 when Bantag was still a jail warden.
In October, a murder complaint was already filed against self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial and his companions whom he implicated in the alleged crime. Others named were brothers Israel and Edmon Dimaculangan, and a certain “Orly,” – who are all still at large – and Christopher Bacoto, the second alleged middleman, who is currently detained under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. Bacoto is denying he knows Escorial.
Lapid, a hard-hitting critic of current and former presidents, was gunned down in Las Piñas City on October 3. His death once again revealed the existing flaws in the country’s prison system as numerous persons deprived of liberty were tagged in the killing – at least 13 of them.
According to the authorities, Bantag had clear motives to order the killings.
“For Percy Lapid, 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 Denver Mayores, which was later forwarded to both Alvin Labra and Aldrin Galicia,” they said.
“For Jun Villamor, it was the attempt to cover up the murder of Percy Lapid.”
DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said the totality of the facts in the cases led to establish that Bantag and Zulueta were indeed behind the killings. He added that affidavits from other respondents established the ties between the two BuCor officials.
When asked if there could be higher officials who ordered Lapid’s killing, Remulla just stuck to his statement about the “totality of facts.”
The officials also released flow charts showing the chronology of events in the killing of Lapid and Villamor. The charts showed how Bantag and Zulueta allegedly ordered the killings.
Lawyer Berteni Causing, spokesperson of Mabasa’s family, said they are not discounting the possibility that there could be co-masterminds, adding that they believe there are a strong ties between Bantag and Zulueta.
Mabasa family’s lawyer Danilo Pelagio, meanwhile, said the family will release a separate statement.
Where’s Bantag now?
During the press conference on Monday, PNP chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said Zulueta already went into hiding. Bantag, meanwhile, is already being monitored by the NBI because an arrest warrant has yet to be issued against him.
Days after Escorial surrendered and made the claim that orders to kill Lapid came from inside Bilibid, Remulla said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered the relief of Bantag. Remulla said this was to ensure an impartial probe.
Bantag was replaced by Aquino-time military chief Gregorio Catapang Jr.
Later on, the sacked BuCor chief was named by the PNP as one of the 160 persons of interest, saying that Bantag was one of the personalities Lapid criticized in his radio program, “Lapid Fire.” After his relief, Bantag went on to criticize the Marcos administration, particularly his successor.
Bantag’s name was floated once again when Escorial, in his supplemental affidavit, claimed a certain Bantag ordered them to kill Lapid. According to Escorial, Villamor told him to attribute the kill order to himself (Villamor) instead because if they mentioned Bantag, Villamor would surely be killed inside Bilibid.
“Subalit dahil patay na po siya (Villamor) ay sasabihin ko na po na talagang sinabi niya sa akin na si BANTAG ang nag-utos sa amin,” the suspect said in his affidavit. (But because Villamor is already dead, I will now say that he told me that Bantag was the one who had ordered us.) – Rappler.com