MANILA, Philippines – The subpoena served on suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General (DG) Gerald Bantag, one of the suspects in the killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, used the wrong middle name, a development which caused a reset of the preliminary hearing of the closely-watched case.
“What we received [on] November 21 is subpoena not intended for our client. It was intended for one, Gerald Bantag y Soriano,” Bantag’s counsel, Rocky Balisong, told reporters on Wednesday, November 23.
Balisong showed to media a copy of the subpoena. “We just received it today. Pina-receive sa amin ‘yong ano [subpoena] kasi mali kasi ‘yong subpoena na sinerve na nauna. Tingnan ninyo it’s Soriano, DG Bantag y Soriano. He’s different from DG Gerald Bantag y Quitaleg. So two different individuals.”
(We just received it today. We received the subpoena because the first one has errors. Look, it’s Soriano, DG Bantag y Soriano. He’s different from DG Gerald Bantag y Quitaleg. So two different individuals.)
The legal counsel was referring to the subpoena served on Bantag in Caloocan on November 15. Although Bantag did not personally receive the subpoena, the prosecution said it was considered received.
On Monday, Balisong received the initial subpoenas. When asked why the issue on the middle name was only raised Wednesday during the preliminary investigation, the legal counsel replied: “We just noted it, ’no? Na talagang pati ’yung sinerve sa Caloocan gano’n din (That even the one sent to Caloocan had the wrong middle name).”
The scheduled preliminary investigation on Wednesday was reset due to the concerns on the subpoena. Balisong said their 10-day period to file a counter-affidavit had just started because the error had just been corrected.
Just like on the previous days, Bantag did not appear before the DOJ. His legal counsel said the suspended BuCor chief did not attend because “there’s no reason to appear” since they just received the new subpoena. Bantag, who’s currently in Baguio City, can attend the next hearing set on December 5 through video teleconference, his lawyer added.
Balisong added that the erroneous subpoena could be “fatal” in the complaints against the suspended corrections chief: “It is fatal. That is fatal because it refers to two different individuals. Definitely, Gerald Bantag y Soriano is not our client, it is Gerald Bantag y Quitaleg.”
However, Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit, who is part of the DOJ’s panel of prosecutors for the case, said the error will not greatly affect the case.
“It’s already addressed in today’s hearing,” Guhit said.
On Wednesday afternoon, November 23, the DOJ released a briefer on the preliminary investigation but did not directly explain the error in Bantag’s subpoena.
“Counsel for DG Bantag, Atty. Balisong, raised an issue on the subpoena issued to DG Bantag because his middle name is not properly stated but this issue was addressed by the Panel during the hearing. Also, another subpoena was issued by the Panel and was accordingly received by Atty. Balisong,” the DOJ said.
The justice department also said the lawyers of the 10 prisoners tagged in the case said the respondents will either reaffirm their previous affidavits, or will file counter-affidavits in the next preliminary hearing.
The National Bureau of Investigation, which is among the agencies that pursued the complaints, will also introduce new evidence, the DOJ added.
“Meanwhile, the NBI manifested that they will file supplemental evidence. The Panel directed the NBI to furnish all the respondents the copies of supplemental evidence five days before the next hearing,” the DOJ said.
Other suspects at-large like BuCor superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and a certain “Orly,” have yet to cooperate on the case. The authorities have also yet to determine their whereabouts.
The suspended BuCor chief and Zulueta are being pinned for the death of hard-hitting broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in the Lapid case. At present, Bantag, Zulueta, and 10 persons deprived of liberty are facing murder complaints for Lapid and Villamor’s death. – Rappler.com