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MANILA, Philippines – Amid the issues on the death of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. named Aquino-time military chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. as the new Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director general.
Catapang will temporarily replace Gerald Bantag, who was put under preventive suspension by Marcos Jr., Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla announced during a press conference on Friday, October 21.
Lapid was gunned down in Las Piñas on October 3. The BuCor under Bantag was put in hot water after the alleged middleman in the killing of Lapid, Crisanto Villamor, died inside the New Bilibid Prison.
The alleged gunman, Joel Escorial, said in his confession that there were six of them behind the murder and the orders came from inside Bilibid. Villamor, based on the DOJ’s briefer, ordered the killing and promised to pay Escorial and his companions P550,000.
Remulla said Bantag was only told about his preventive suspension on Friday morning. Before that, the DOJ chief said he had talked to the suspended corrections chief to ask for jail records.
The preventive suspension for Bantag is indefinite, according to Remulla, adding that the BuCor chief’s suspension would ensure an impartial probe.
Catapang was named by the late former president Benigno Aquino III as chief of staff of the Philippine military in July 2014 and served until July 2015. Interestingly, the new BuCor chief was a former rebel soldier, who plotted against the Marcos dictatorship.
Before he rose to become the country’s top soldier, he was bypassed in the selection of the Philippine Army chief during the Aquino administration.
The new BuCor chief has deep ties with the Aquinos. Catapang and Noynoy had known each other for decades – they met during the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
On Thursday, Remulla revealed that Villamor had died inside the national penitentiary. BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said on Friday that 42-year-old Villamor was brought to the Bilibid hospital after he lost consciousness on October 18, at around 1:30 pm.
Villamor was pronounced dead at around 2 pm on the same day. The alleged middleman’s body is currently in Eastern Funeral Sevice and had undergone an autopsy done by the National Bureau of Investigation’s medico-legal team.
Chaclag said Villamor’s body showed “no signs of physical external injuries which probably indicates a natural cause of death or no signs of foul play.”
The official and final autopsy report will also include a toxicology test result, Chaclag added.
Based on the timeline provided by the authorities, Escorial surrendered on October 17. A day later, Villamor died. This means authorities had time to check on the claim made by Escorial because the alleged middleman only died a day later.
Aside from this, the alleged middleman who died had used three names: Crisanto Palana Villamor (based on the DOJ’s briefer), Jun Villamor y Globa (based on BuCor records), and Jun Villamor y Garcia (according to Remulla).
On October 19, the chief of Muntinlupa police went to Bilibid to inquire about a certain Crisanto Villamor, whom Escorial mentioned in his confession, according to Remulla.
The BuCor, however, said it has no records of the name.
Remulla said they were certain that Crisanto Villamor and Jun Villamor were the same people by reconciling the available information.
Chaclag, in another message to reporters on Friday, maintained that they have no record of a certain Crisanto Villamor. – Rappler.com