Department of Justice

DOJ issues order to monitor Bantag, Zulueta in immigration lookout bulletin

Jairo Bolledo
DOJ issues order to monitor Bantag, Zulueta in immigration lookout bulletin

FOR MONITORING. BuCor officials Gerald Bantag (right) and Ricardo Zulueta (left) are being monitored but not banned from traveling.

A lookout bulletin is used for monitoring purposes only, and is not 'a sufficient prohibition for a subject's departure from the Philippines'

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) placed suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director general Gerald Bantag and former BuCor deputy for security operations superintendent Ricardo Zulueta under the Bureau of Immigration’s (BI) lookout bulletin.

“…Requesting for the issuance of an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against GERALD QUITALEG BANTAG and RICARDO SORIANO ZULUETA, in connection with the Murder of Percival Carag Mabasa, a.k.a. Percy Lapid, and Cristito Villamor Palaña, a.k.a. Jun Villamor y Globa, docketed as NPS Docket No. XVI-INV-22K-00444, and NPS Docket No. XVI- INV-22K-00443, respectively, which are both currently pending preliminary investigation before this Department,” the DOJ memorandum stated.

A lookout bulletin is used for monitoring purposes only, and is not “a sufficient prohibition for a subject’s departure from the Philippines.”

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However, in its request, the DOJ explained that with the gravity of the complaints against Bantag and Zulueta, there is a “strong possibility” that they “may attempt to place themselves beyond the reach of the legal processes” by going overseas.

“Thus, this Department deems the issuance of an ILBO against the above-subject individuals prudent in order to at least monitor the itineraries of their flight, travel, and/or whereabouts,” the justice department added.

The memorandum, tagged as “urgent,” was signed by DOJ Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla. BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco was the direct recipient of the order, while Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento, National Bureau of Investigation Director Medardo de Lemos, and Philippine National Police chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. were informed about the memorandum.

Both Bantag and Zulueta are being pinned as the alleged masterminds for the killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in the case. During the early days of the probe into the case, Remulla repeatedly said an ILBO would not be needed since Bantag and Zulueta are government officials and cannot leave the country without a travel authority.

The DOJ chief even said they would instead file a hold departure order (HDO). Unlike the lookout bulletin that tasks the BI to be on the lookout for a specific person, an HDO can prevent a person from leaving the country.

DOJ issues order to monitor Bantag, Zulueta in immigration lookout bulletin

When asked why Remulla changed his mind, DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said: “The ILBO was issued as a precautionary measure. It is indeed not necessary but it is prudent to monitor any international travel of the respondents.”

Both Bantag and Zulueta had already surfaced since the murder complaints were filed against them in relation to the deaths of Lapid and Villamor. In the last two preliminary investigations into the case, only Bantag appeared before the DOJ and faced the prosecutors – at least on one occasion on December 5.

After months of being under the radar, Zulueta finally appeared last week in a Facebook post of his legal counsel Lauro Gacayan. In a message to Rappler, Gacayan said his client is not in hiding and is ready to answer allegations being thrown at him. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.