crimes in the Philippines

‘Middleman’ in Percy Lapid case suffocated with plastic bag – 2nd autopsy

Michelle Abad

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‘Middleman’ in Percy Lapid case suffocated with plastic bag – 2nd autopsy

AUTOPSY. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun speak to the media about the results of a new autopsy on Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in the killing of broadcaster Percival 'Percy Lapid' Mabasa, during a press conference at the Department of Justice on October 29, 2022.


Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, who performed the second autopsy, says the alleged middleman's death was a homicide

MANILA, Philippines – Crisanto “Jun” Villamor, the alleged middleman in the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid, died due to suffocation from a plastic bag, results from Villamor’s second autopsy showed.

‘Middleman’ in Percy Lapid case suffocated with plastic bag – 2nd autopsy

Performed by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, the second autopsy revealed more details about Villamor’s death that indicated foul play. It was released to the media on Saturday, October 29.

“Based on available information regarding the circumstances surrounding death, the manner is homicide,” Fortun said in her report.

These were the most pertinent findings of the second autopsy:

  • History of asphyxia by plastic bag suffocation
  • Pulmonary congestion, edema, and hemorrhages
  • Schistosomiasis (parasitic infection) of the liver
  • Status post-autopsy and post-embalming
  • Evidence of medical intervention consisting of a needle puncture mark on right hand

Villamor died on October 18, just a day after self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial surrendered to authorities and implicated him as the middleman in the Percy Lapid case.

The first autopsy performed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) showed that Villamor died with “no apparent sign of external physical injury.” But the Philippine National Police and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed doubt that Villamor died of natural causes, given the timing of his death. 

Percy Lapid’s family had by then requested for a second autopsy on Villamor.

An exclusive ABS-CBN report also revealed that Villamor sent his sister names of possible masterminds that he wanted released just in case he died. In Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s words, they were included in his “dying declaration.”

Fortun said she considered this as she examined Villamor’s body on Wednesday, October 26.

“There is information that he expressed fear for his life shortly before his demise and that he died from suffocation by means of a plastic bag over his head,” Fortun’s report reads.

Fortun said the autopsy findings showed no gross morphologic cause of death, which was consistent with the reported asphyxia.

Remulla also said that the differences between the two autopsy reports did not show inconsistency – only that there was more information about Villamor’s death now. Fortun said that her initial examination of the body did not yield obvious findings, as she found Villamor did not have significant illnesses or injuries. 

She also said she was “not sure” if her report was vastly different from the NBI’s as she had not seen the detailed autopsy report.

The justice secretary also reported that seven more persons of interest (POIs) were under the DOJ’s custody, bringing the total POIs under custody of the DOJ and PNP up to 15.

Marami na ho tayong nakakausap, marami na ho nagpapaliwanag, at may pito pa hong taong tayong kinuha na maaaring ito na ang magpapaliwanag at magtuturo na ang pagkamatay ni Jun Villamor ay isang hindi po aksidente, hindi po atake na natural, ngunit isang pinagplanuhang kamatayan,” said Remulla.

(We have spoken to many people, and many have been explaining. And we have seven more people who may explain or point out that Jun Villamor’s death was not an accident, not a natural attack, but a planned death.)

“We are now in the last phase, I believe, in the investigation,” Remulla said, adding that the justice department will review all statements again, including that of Escorial. “This case is almost over. The investigation is almost over. It’s a matter of filing the cases and probably being able to identify masterminds in this case.” 

Remulla said that there are two persons of interest who they think are masterminds of the killing, but their names cannot be released to the public yet.

Authorities also have yet to trace the money trail that led to Escorial receiving the blood money for Lapid’s head.

Meth found in urine

Another notable finding in Villamor’s second autopsy was the presence of methamphetamine or shabu in his urine. This was not in the NBI’s report.

Remulla said that rumors of drugs in the New Bilibid Prison have been confirmed by the presence of meth in the body of Villamor, who was detained in Bilibid at the time of his death.

Fortun also pointed out the need to look at health problems in the Philippine correctional system.

“It’s not just a matter of how the individual was killed. Please take note, it’s also a health issue, that there is methamphetamine in jail – that was so shocking for me. And the other is that there is a parasitic infection. These people die of communicable diseases as well, so wouldn’t you want to check the jails?” said Fortun.

“We don’t want our inmates to be dying. They’re supposed to be under state custody…. They should not be dying, and they should not be killed, of course, like this,” she added. –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.