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MANILA, Philippines – Radio broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa is the second journalist killed under the Marcos administration, and the 197th one to be killed since 1986. He was known for his scathing commentary critical of the government.
Murder complaints have been filed against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag, BuCor’s Directorate for Security and Operations (DSO) Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, and a number of persons deprived of liberty over their connections to the killings.
Rappler created a network of personalities allegedly involved in the case. (READ: Persons accused in the Percy Lapid killing)
Lapid’s family released a statement last October 4, demanding accountability and that the killer be brought to justice: “We strongly condemn this deplorable crime. It was committed not only against Percy, his family, and his profession, but against our country, his beloved Philippines, and the truth,” the statement read.
Here’s a rundown of events relevant to the developing case based on news reports, sworn affidavits, press briefings, and official government reports. Toplines are in the data visualization below and more details are in the text below the visualization chart. This will be updated as new information arises.
Click on “Percy Lapid’s case” above left in the timeline chart below to unselect developments pertaining to his case and to see only events related to Jun Villamor’s death. If you want to see developments pertaining to Lapid’s case only, click on “Jun Villamor’s case” to unselect those relevant to Villamor’s death.
September 5, 2022
In his extrajudicial confession, Joel Escorial claims that on this day he is contacted by Crisanto Palaña Villamor to inform him of an offer to assassinate Percy Lapid for P550,000. Escorial accepts the job and gives Villamor his BDO account number.
September 15 to 16, 2022
On this day, Joel Escorial claims to have received an initial deposit of P200,000, part of the P550,000 offered to him and his co-conspirators to assassinate the journalist. He then claims to meet up with Israel Dimaculangan in an eatery in Las Piñas to scope Lapid’s residence. From then on, the two supposedly tail Lapid.
September 22 to 23, 2022
Joel Escorial and Israel Dimaculangan are supposedly joined by his brother Edmon Dimaculangan, and a certain “Orly.” Escorial claims they visit Lapid’s office in Mandaluyong but do not find him there.
September 30 to October 2, 2022
Escorial claims he and his co-conspirators continue to stalk Lapid on his trips to and from work.
October 3, 2022
Motorcycle-riding gunmen shoot 63-year-old Lapid along Aria Street, Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City, at around 8:30 pm.
October 4, 2022
A Special Investigation Task Force is created by the Las Piñas station of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) to investigate Lapid’s death.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) releases a statement saying they are conducting a motu proprio investigation into Lapid’s death.
October 6, 2022
Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. offers a P500,000 reward for information on the killers.
October 7, 2022
A photo of the “person of interest” (later identified as Escorial) taken from CCTV footage is shown during a press briefing by the NCRPO. Lawyer Alex Lopez offers an additional P1 million as reward money for information on Lapid’s killers, placing a total P1.5-million bounty on his head. Abalos calls for the killer to surrender.
October 8, 2022
In an interview during Lapid’s wake, his brother Roy Mabasa reiterates the role of media, saying: “Wala akong nakikitang mali sa pagiging critical because that is the role of the media, that is the role of being – that is the nature of being a commentator. Anong – hindi ka naman puwedeng maging commentator kung didilaan mo lang ang puwet ng mga nakaupo sa gobyerno. Ang pag – Kaya ka nga tinawag na commentator para madiscuss mo, matalakay mo ‘yung mga issues na dapat talakayin ng bayan. At mabigyan mo ng mas makatotohanang ideya ang mga nakikinig sa ’yo. Kaya naman siguro minahal ng mga nakikinig si Percy, dahil talagang naniniwala sila na ang sinasabi ni Ka Percy ay totoo.”
(I don’t see anything wrong with being critical because that is the role of the media, that is the role of – that is the nature of being a commentator. What – You can’t be a commentator if you will just kiss the ass of those in government. The – You are called a commentator to discuss the issues that the nation should discuss, and to give your listeners more truthful ideas. Maybe that is why Percy was loved by his listeners, because they really believe that what he is saying is the truth.)
October 9, 2022
Lapid is laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
House Speaker Martin Romualdez announces that several congressmen jointly contributed P5 million as reward money, bringing the total bounty on Lapid’s killers to P6.5 million.
October 17, 2022
Escorial surrenders. In his extrajudicial confession made to the Las Piñas City Police Station on October 17, but signed on October 18, the gunman names the Dimaculangan siblings and “Orly” as his co-conspirators. He claims he was ordered to kill Lapid by middleman Crisanto “Idoy” Villamor from inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), but the others involved were contacted by a certain Christopher Bacoto from inside a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility.
On the same day, Zulueta supposedly contacts Denver Mayores, a person deprived of liberty (PDL) in NBP and a known aide of Bantag, alerting him about Escorial’s surrender. The Department of Justice (DOJ)’s report claims that Zulueta is concerned Escorial might link him to Lapid’s murder. Mayores then allegedly contacts fellow PDL Alvin Labra, commander of Batang City Jail gang (BCJ) to relay Zulueta’s concern. Labra supposedly talks to PDL Aldrin Galicia, commander of Sputnik gang. Galicia supposedly reassures Labra that Escorial did not know about Zulueta’s alleged involvement in the killing.
October 18, 2022
Escorial is presented by Abalos at a press conference as Lapid’s killer. “Natakot po ako saka nakonsensiya po ako sa paggawa kay Percy Lapid po (I was afraid and conscience-struck for the killing of Percy Lapid),” he says.
The chief of the Southern Police District station of Las Piñas, police colonel Jimmy Santos, head of the special investigation task group for the Percy Lapid slay, goes to NBD to secure Villamor but is met with resistance. BuCor officials reportedly refuse to cooperate.
Based on the DOJ’s report, Zulueta allegedly instructs Labra to have Galicia kill middleman Crisanto “Jun” Villamor at 10 am. Zulueta also allegedly warns Labra that Bantag’s name should not be associated with the killing. Labra supposedly relays the order to Galicia at 11 am. At 11:30 am, Galicia reportedly relays the order to kill Villamor to Joseph “Jojo” Georfo or Jurpo, the assistant commander of the Sputnik gang. Jurpo then allegedly instructs Mario “May-may” Alvarez to kill Villamor. Alvarez allegedly assembles a group of four inmates to kill Villamor: Ricky Salgado, Christian “Jokon” Ramac, Ronnie dela Cruz, and Joel Reyes. They supposedly decide to kill him using a plastic bag and carry out the task at past noon.
At 11:59 am, Villamor messages his sister on Facebook Messenger using a contraband phone saying: “’Te ingatan mo etong sasabihin ko, ilabas mo eto pag namatay ako d2, kailangan walang makaalam nito hanggat buhay pa ako, pag nawala ako iparating kda joel na ang sugo tulo ng comander (sic) didi, sputnik, happy go lucky, at bcj.. tikang sa opisina an sugo sa era, com.aldren.com.labra, comalfie..”
NBI spokesperson Eugene Javier translates this more clearly in the DOJ-DILG-NBI-PNP joint press conference: “Te ingatan mo itong sasabihin ko. Ilabas mo lang ito ‘pag namatay ako dito. Kailangan walang makakaalam nito hanggat buhay pa ako. ‘Pag nawala ako, iparating mo kina Joel na ang utos nanggaling sa commander ng Sputnik, Happy Go Lucky, at BCJ. Galing ang utos sa opisina, at inutos sila Commander Aldrin, Commander Labra, at Commander Alfie.”
(Ate, be very careful with what I’m about to say. Get this out if I die here. Nobody should know about this while I’m still alive. If I die, let Joel know that the order came from the commanders of Sputnik, Happy Go Lucky, and BCJ. The order came from the office, and they ordered Commander Aldrin, Commander Labra, and Commander Alfie…)
From 12:15 to 12:20 pm, the Sputnik gang members, allegedly ordered by Alvarez, set out to kill Villamor. The DOJ claims that in his testimony, inmate Christian Ramac admits to suffocating Villamor by placing a plastic bag over his head. Villamor is brought to the prison hospital at 1:30 pm but is declared dead by 2 pm.
The Southern Police District and Lapid’s family file a murder complaint against Escorial and his three accomplices with the DOJ.
October 19, 2022
The Muntinlupa police go to NBP to inquire about a certain Crisanto Villamor. NBP officers insist there are no records of a Crisanto Villamor in the prison.
October 20, 2022
DOJ Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla announces that middleman Villamor died in the custody of NBP.
An autopsy is performed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Villamor’s body.
October 21, 2022
DOJ Secretary Remulla announces that BuCor chief Gerald Bantag was put under preventive suspension by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Former AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. is named temporary BuCor director general.
BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag confirms the death of 42-year-old Villamor in Bilibid. Chaclag maintains that there was no Crisanto Villamor in Bilibid but that they were able to secure Jose Palaña Villamor, related to Crisanto VIllamor. Remulla confirms Jose Villamor is another person of interest in the Lapid case.
Middleman Villamor had multiple names which make verification difficult. “So you have a person who is known by three names, who was a person of interest in the Percy Lapid killing, who died, and when his record was being verified, it was not immediately verified because the names inside the record of Bilibid was another name,” Remulla says. Villamor has been referred to as Crisanto Villamor, Cristito Palaña Villamor, Jun Globa Villamor, and Jun Garcia Villamor.
October 22, 2022
The initial autopsy by the NBI is made public. According to the report, “there was no apparent sign of external physical injury” on Villamor’s body.
In a series of tweets, leading forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun criticizes the NBI’s report. She asks why the autopsy and toxicology examination was performed two days after Villamor’s death, after the body was embalmed.
October 24, 2022
Catapang takes over as BuCor chief and suspends Bantag’s people who were transferred to the BuCor from the BJMP. These officers were reportedly promoted several ranks above their previous positions upon transfer, violating section 15 of the Civil Service Commission’s memorandum circular no 3, series of 2001.
PNP confirms that Bantag is one of 160 persons of interest in Lapid’s murder. PNP chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin explains that Bantag was included because he has been criticized in Lapid Fire, Lapid’s radio program.
The deceased Villamor’s sister seeks Senator Raffy Tulfo’s help. Secretary Erwin Tulfo, in place of Raffy Tulfo who is in Geneva, brings the sister to the DOJ. The sister shares messages sent to her by her deceased brother at 11:59 am of October 18. Villamor’s dying declaration mentions three commanders in NBD. Remulla orders Catapang to transfer these three PDLs, along with another suspect named by an unnamed informant, to the NBI. They proceed to give their testimonies regarding the case.
October 25, 2022
DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano reveals that Villamor’s sister gave the department a list of possible masterminds she received in a message from her brother before he was killed.
October 26, 2022
Senator Risa Hontiveros reveals that the Mabasa family has been receiving threats over the weekend.
October 29, 2022
The second autopsy performed by Dr. Fortun is released to the public. It reveals that the cause of death of middleman Jun Villamor was suffocation with a plastic bag. Fortun also finds that Villamor had schistosomiasis (parasitic infection) of the liver, and traces of methamphetamine or shabu in his urine. She points out that her findings show the need to look at health issues in the Philippine correctional system.
The DOJ insists this does not contradict the first autopsy. It merely reveals new information consistent with previous findings.
October 30, 2022
Suspended Bantag criticizes the Marcos administration for its handling of the Percy Lapid case. In an interview with Anthony Taberna, Bantag asks why the investigation focused on him when there are 159 other persons of interest.
November 2, 2022
BuCor director general Catapang reveals there are now 13 PDLs considered persons of interest in the Lapid case. Catapang also announces that 7,000 canned beers and suspected shabu inside the maximum security compound of Bilibid have been confiscated. Mobile phones and deadly weapons have also either been surrendered or confiscated by BuCor officers. Catapang says he will ask the forensics team if Villamor’s contraband phone was among those collected.
In an interview, Roy Mabasa reveals that even his nephew has been receiving threats. Mabasa says he will report this to the NBI. The Mabasa family had agreed to heightened security but declines to be placed under the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).
November 4, 2022
Alleged second middleman Christopher Bacoto denies involvement in Lapid’s murder. Bacoto’s lawyer, Salvador Quimpo, claims that his client could not have given the order while in prison: “He has been in prison sa (in the) high security detention facility for the last two years so how can he recruit?”
According to Quimpo, his client is detained in a BJMP facility for drug charges. He is also facing frustrated homicide and frustrated murder charges.
November 7, 2022
The PNP and the DILG file murder complaints against Gerald Bantag, Ricardo Zulueta, and a number of PDLs for the deaths of Lapid and Villamor.
In the joint press conference of the DOJ, DILG, NBI, and PNP, lawyer Eugene Javier reads their joint statement outlining the details of the case and its resolution.
For the murder of Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, the following are charged:
- Director General Gerald Bantag and DSO Ricardo Zulueta as principals by inducement
- PDLs Denver Mayores, Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia, and Alfie Peñaredonda as principals by indispensable cooperation
For the murder of Cristito Villamor Palaña, also known as Jun Villamor y Globa, Crisanto Villamor, and “Idoy,” the following are charged:
- Director General Gerald Bantag, and DSO Ricardo Zulueta as principals by inducement
- PDLs Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia, Mario Alvarez, and Joseph Georfo as principals by indispensable cooperation
- PDLs Christian Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz, and Joel Reyes as principals by direct participation
Javier concludes: “The investigation has brought to light the institutionalization of a criminal organization within the government. This will be the cause of many reforms in government and the strengthening of current mechanisms to ensure that nothing of this nature will ever happen again. This concerted and coordinated effort of both the DOJ and the DILG is a war against impunity, and the continuous and gross disregard of the rule of law.”
November 9, 2022
DOJ Secretary Remulla says Bantag and Zulueta are still in the country. He also urges them to answer the complaints filed against them saying, “Sumagot sila ng counter-affidavit. Huwag sila sa media sasagot. Mag-counter-affidavit sila. ‘Yan ang proseso ng batas natin eh. Igalang nila ang batas.”
November 11, 2022
In an interview with the SMNI News Channel, Bantag responds to the allegations against him, and challenges Remulla to resign. “Parang gusto kong magmura eh. Sinungaling ka, SOJ (Secretary of Justice)! Mag-step down ka na, ‘yan ang challenge ko. Wala ka na raw credibility, wala ka nang moral ascendancy sa puwesto mo,” he says.
(I feel like cursing. You’re a liar, SOJ. I challenge you to step down. They say you don’t have credibility anymore, you no longer have moral ascendancy in your post.)
He also accuses the latter of using and importing marijuana, in relation to the drug charges Remulla’s son is currently facing.
In a press conference on the same day, DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano responds to Bantag’s accusations saying, “There is only one issue at hand, the related murders of Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor. Let us not muddle the issue, let us not clutch at straws.” – Rappler.com