Cases filed vs. suspended BuCor chief Bantag, others over death of Lapid, middleman

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) filed murder complaints on Monday against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and other personalities allegedly involved in the killing of radio broadcaster Percy Lapid and the middleman in the slay case.

“The case has been filed with our prosecutors and from there we will proceed with the case proper and hopefully this issue will be laid to rest the way that it should be when crime is committed against a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines, especially this time we are talking about a member of media,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a briefing.

“It was found through the investigation that both Director General Gerald Bantag and [BuCor] DSO [Deputy Security Officer] Ricardo Zulueta were behind the killing of both Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor,” NBI spokesperson Eugene Javier said, noting that the complaints had been filed.

Villamor was the alleged middleman in the Lapid case. He died in detention, with an independent autopsy showing he was suffocated with a plastic bag.

Javier said the suspended BuCor official had a clear motive to order the murders.

For Percy Lapid, it was continued expose made by the broadcaster on the issues against the Bantag on former's show Lapid Fire. For Jun Villamor, it was the attempt to cover up the murder of Lapid, Javier noted.

Remulla also explained that the principle they adopted in filing the complaints "is the totality of all the facts given" by all the witnesses and all the circumstances attendant to the killings.

"So it's a totality test, it is not for us to point out a direct link but the totality of all the acts points out to the participation of and responsibility of those charged," he added.

The Justice Department chief said both personalities will be issued with a subpoena as Zulueta has been in hiding, and that he has skipped town four or five days ago.

Aside from Bantag and Zulueta, those also named related to the death of the broadcaster were:

- Denver Mayores, inmate from Iwahig Prison, trusted aide of Bantag

- Alvin Labra, commander of BCJ Gang

- Aldrin Galicia, commander of Sputnik Gang

- Alfie Peñaredonda, commander of HappyGoLucky Gang

For the killing of alleged middleman Jun Villamor, the following are also facing charges:

- Labra

- Galicia

- Mario Alvarez, member of Sputnik Gang

- Joseph Georfo, member of Sputnik Gang

- Christian Ramac, member of Sputnik Gang

- Ricky Salgado, member of Sputnik Gang

- Ronnie dela Cruz, member of Sputnik Gang

- Joel Reyes, member of Sputnik Gang

Bantag was initially named as one of the 160 “persons of interest” in the Lapid slay.

Speaking to CNN Philippines’ The Source, Berteni Causing, lawyer of the Mabasa family, said the pieces of evidence so far gathered point to Bantag as the mastermind behind the death of the broadcaster.

“I’ve read all the affidavits. Number one for formality, they are admissible because all the requirements by the Constitution in taking of extrajudicial confession were complied with. Number two, the questions that were posed on them were actually, to my mind, are already sufficient to get the supposed details in order for us to say that for me to make an opinion that the mastermind is actually Mr. Bantag,” he said.

In a statement, Roy Mabasa, brother of the late broadcaster, thanked authorities and supporters in the family’s quest for justice.

“We are optimistic and asking for prayers and continued support for identifying more masterminds behind Bantag,” he added.

Mabasa said he also recognized efforts to probe possible corruption in the BuCor, which was raised by his brother in the Oct. 3 program of ‘Lapid Fire.’

Gaya po ng palaging sinasabi ni Ka Percy, ‘Ang paglalahad ng katotohanan ay di katapangan kundi isang obligasyon,’” Mabasa said,

[Translation: Just like what Ka Percy always says, “Revealing the truth is not courage but an obligation.”]

Lapid, whose real name is Percival Mabasa, was gunned down inside his vehicle on Oct. 3. by then unidentified motorcycle-riding assailants at the gate of a subdivision along Aria St., Barangay Talon Dos in Las Piñas City.

Alleged gunman Joel Escorial surrendered prior to Villamor's death.

Several persons of interest are already in the custody of authorities, while others remain at large.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.