Suspended BuCor head Bantag ‘a person of interest’ in Percy Lapid killing – Remulla

BuCor Director General Gerald Q. Bantag

Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Q. Bantag is considered “a person of interest” in the killing of radio broadcaster Percival C. Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said on Monday, Oct. 24.

In an interview at the Department of Justice (DOJ), Remulla said: “Definitely he is a person of interest at least for the reckless imprudence that is already being sought” by the Mabasa family.

He said he learned that the Mabasa family plans to file a case against Bantag for reckless imprudence resulting in murder.

He pointed out that it is the right of the family to pursue a case against Bantag.

“That is the option of the family. It is within their legal options,” he said.

With the death of Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in the Percy Lapid killing, inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City last Oct. 18, Secretary Remulla placed Bantag under preventive suspension while the probe on the death is in progress.

Remulla said the preventive suspension of Bantag was on orders of President Ferdinand "Bongbong” Marcos Jr. “to preclude the possibility of exerting undue influence or pressure on the witnesses... or tampering of documentary evidence....”

Lawyer Berteni Causing, also the spokesperson of the Mabasa family, disclosed to journalists, on Monday, Oct. 24, that they are studying the filing of a criminal case against Bantag.

“Kung walang imprudence sa kanya, walang cellphone na madadala sa loob ng kulungan (If there is no imprudence, then there would be no cellphone inside the prison),” Causing explained.

He reminded that self-confessed gunman Joel S. Escorial said in his extrajudicial confession that a New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmate, identified as Crisanto Palana Villamor, contacted the hitman to kill Mabasa.

In the meantime, Causing said the family will be filing an administrative case against Bantag, either before the DOJ or before the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We are happy to announce at least administrative case pa lang sasampa naming kaso kay Gen. Bantag sapagkat naging pabaya siya at nakalusot ang cellphone (we will file an administrative case against Bantag because he was negligent and allowed a cellphone inside the prison),” he said.

The Mabasa lawyer was present during the first hearing on the preliminary investigation of the murder complaint filed against Escorial and his three co-respondents, namely: brothers Israel Adao Dimaculangan and Edmon Dimaculangan, and a certain “Orly” or “Orlando.”

Causing refused claims of police investigators that the killing of Percy Lapid is solved.

“Until we get to the bottom of it, the mastermind, there is no such thing as case closed,” he said.

Remulla also expressed the same sentiment aired by Causing.

“We cannot close the case until we know the details and the proper testimonies are in place. We just want the evidence to be secured,” Remulla said.

He said the investigation is still going on in the case.

“All possible suspects are being considered. All angles are being considered. We have to be thorough with this,” he pointed out.

He said he is set to meet with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Monday afternoon to give more documents and request to look into matters involving the case.

Also, Remulla said he has asked independent forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun to examine the remains of Jun Globa Villamor.

“I have also spoken to Dr. Raquel Fortun to ask her to conduct a second autopsy,” he said.

“Because that is the agreement that I had with Roy Mabasa (brother of the late Percy Lapid) who I spokes with yesterday together with the son of Percy Lapid,” he also said.

At the same time, Remulla said there is a proposal to return to the Bureau of Jail and Management and Penology (BJMP) personnel who have been assigned to the BuCor.

“We will decide on that after the request is made by the officer-in-charge of BuCor,” he said.

He explained that BJMP personnel were assigned to the BuCor based on the memorandum of agreement signed by the two agencies.

“Actually it (agreement) expired a month ago,” he said.

TAGS: #DOJ #Percy Lapid #BuCor #Escorial