MANILA, Philippines – The group behind the murder of hard-hitting journalist Percy Lapid followed him around his work and home for days before killing him in his vehicle in Las Piñas, self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial said in his extrajudicial confession.
The confession, dated October 18 but released to the media on Monday, October 24, contained the details of the plan that led up to the October 3 murder.
Escorial said that a certain Crisanto Palana Villamor detained in Bilibid ordered him to kill Lapid. Meanwhile, the other three in the group, siblings Israel and Edmon Dimaculangan and a certain “Orly” were given orders by another alleged middleman, Christopher Bacoto, to help Escorial commit the hit job.
They were offered P550,000 to kill the broadcaster. Escorial has been under law enforcement custody since he surrendered on October 17.
Weeks of planning
After receiving initial deposits amounting to P200,000 made to Escorial’s Banco de Oro (BDO) bank account from September 15 to 16, Escorial said he met up with Israel Dimaculangan at an eatery to discuss the location of Lapid’s house.
“Simula po noon, amin pong sinubaybayan si Percy Lapid,” said Escorial. (From then on, we followed Percy Lapid.)
On September 22 and 23, Escorial said he, the Dimaculangan siblings, and Orly went to Lapid’s office in Mandaluyong but did not find him there.
“Kaya po noong Setyembre 30, 2022, sinubaybayan na po namin si Percy Lapid sa bahay niya at kung saan siya nagtratrabaho. Inalaman din po namin ang oras at araw ng kanyang pasok sa kanyang trabaho. Inalam din po namin kung saan siya madalas na dumadaan papunta at pabalik sa kanyang trabaho,” Escorial said.
(So on September 30, we followed Percy Lapid to his house and where he works. We found out what time and day he goes to work. We also found out where he usually passes by going to and from his work.)
Escorial said they followed him from September 30 to October 2, the day before he killed him. “Sinabi din po ni Orly na kung kanino sa amin nina Israel at Edmon matatapat si Percy Lapid, siya ang babaril dito, at pag hindi siya nasunod, kami daw ang kanyang babarilin/papatayin.“
(Orly also told us that whoever among me, Israel, and Edmon would be nearest to Percy Lapid must kill him, and if this was not followed, we would be shot/killed.)
On October 3, the day of the kill, Escorial said that he and Orly were on a motorcycle coming from Barangay Zapote. After briefly separating for a smoke break in the area around SM Center Las Piñas, Orly called Escorial to say that Lapid’s vehicle had passed by him.
Escorial immediately returned to Orly and his motorcycle, while the Dimaculangan siblings were on another motorcycle. The group followed Lapid’s vehicle going to Aria Street in Sta. Cecilia Village.
“At bago po makapasok sa guard house ay agad po namin siyang dinikitan at akin po siyang binaril ng tatlong beses,” said Escorial. (Before he got the the guard house, we immediately placed ourselves at his side and I shot him three times.)
After he shot Lapid, Escorial and Orly escaped on the motorbike. The Dimaculangan siblings were nearby and served as a lookout.
From Aria Street, the group went from Zapote to Bacoor, Cavite. Escorial eventually got off the vehicle and took a jeep ride back to his house in Bacoor to hide.
On October 4, Escorial received P50,000 and then another P300,000 in his BDO account. The P550,000 was complete.
Escorial said he distributed the money as follows:
- P20,000 for Villamor via a GCash number
- P80,000 for Orly
- P20,000 for Edmon Dimaculangan via meet-up in a parking lot in SM Molino
- P40,000 for Israel Dimaculangan via bank deposit to Israel’s wife
At the time of his confession, Escorial said he did not know his companions’ current locations. He also did not know who deposited the blood money into his account.
Coordination with the middlemen
Escorial said he knew Villamor for a long time. Before Villamor was detained, the two worked as hitmen in Tanauan, Batangas for a certain “Herman Agojo.” (There is a drug lord called “Herman Agojo” who was a witness in the 2016 congressional probe of the Bilibid drug trade. But it has yet to be confirmed if this is the same Herman Agojo Escorial was referring to.)
According to the self-confessed gunman, Villamor did not give any reason for wanting Lapid dead. He only offered a bounty for his head in exchange for P550,000.
Villamor arranged for Escorial to receive the gun that killed Lapid as early as May. Villamor called Escorial to say that someone would be giving him a gun. Escorial met with that person to receive the gun in Alabang, Muntinlupa.
Read Escorial’s whole account here:
The Philippine National Police’s Southern Police District confirmed that a murder complaint was filed against Escorial on October 19.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a chance interview with reporters on Monday that the department has “not stopped studying all possibilities.”
He said he would turn over all information to the National Bureau of Investigation for validation.
“I will also ask [the NBI] to speak to the witnesses inside the custodial center so that this can be properly validated. I’ve also spoken to Dr. Raquel Fortun to ask her to conduct a second autopsy, to conduct verifying autopsy, so that she can also give her observations, because that is the agreement that I had with Roy Mabasa, who I spoke to yesterday, together with the son of Percy Lapid, so that, we’re attending to everything that has to be done,” said Remulla.
Drilon: Case far from solved
In a media release on Monday, former justice secretary and Senate president Franklin Drilon said the Lapid killing is far from solved.
“The prosecution must validate the confessions of self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial with corroborative evidence. This is crucial because the case cannot stand on the testimony alone of the gunman. The case for the prosecution still stands on thin ice,” Drilon told ANC’s Headstart on Monday.
In a separate statement, Drilon said that the death of the middleman just a day after Escorial implicated him in the crime was “suspicious and disturbing evidence of a wider conspiracy.”
Drilon said that the Philippine National Police (PNP) must go deeper to unmask the mastermind who ordered the middleman to kill Lapid.
“Suppose [Escorial] recants, what happens? The prosecution’s case will fall into pieces. The narration of the gunman therefore must be viewed with caution,” Drilon said.
Drilon added that a Senate investigation is not needed at the moment, only appealing for the PNP to do its work.
On Monday, the PNP questioned the Bureau of Corrections’ sense of urgency in investigating the case, lamenting that Villamor died before they could include him in the investigation. BuCor deputy director general Gabriel Chaclag also said on Monday that Villamor died before the BuCor knew that the PNP was looking for him.