A three-member panel of prosecutors has been formed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct the preliminary investigation of the two murder complaints filed in the killings of radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and inmate Cristito Villamor Palana, the alleged middleman in the slaying of the broadcaster.
To be investigated are the charges filed last Nov. 7 against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Q. Bantag, BuCor’s Deputy Security Officer Ricardo S. Zulueta, and several persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
Bantag and Zulueta were charges as “principals by inducement” in the two killings.
Also charged in the Percy Lapid killing as “principals by indispensable cooperation” were PDLs Denver Batungbakal Mayores, Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosa Galicia and Alfie Penaredonda.
For the killing of Palana, who had been earlier identified as Jun Globa Villamor, also charged as “principals by direct participation” were PDLs Christian Dizon Ramac, Ricky Lamigo Salgado, Ronnie Pabustan Dela Cruz, and Joel Alog Reyes.
The two murder complaints will be consolidated with the first complaint filed by the Philippine National Police (PNP) last Oct. 18 against self-confessed gunman Joel S. Escorial and his three alleged accomplices – brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and a person identified only as “Orly” or “Orlando.”
Prosecutor General Benedicto A. Malcontento on Thursday, Nov. 10, said that with the creation of the panel, subpoenas will be issued to Bantag and his co-respondents in the two murder complaints.
They will be ordered to appear before the panel and to respond to the accusations against them, Malcontento said.
He said the panel of prosecutors is chaired by Deputy State Prosecutor Olivia I. Laroza Torrevillas with Senior Assistant State Prosecutors Charlie L. Guhit and Josie Christina T. Dugay as members.
Guhit was the one initially assigned to handle the murder complaint filed against Escorial and his alleged accomplices.
Last Wednesday, Nov. 9, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla said that additional evidence would be presented to the DOJ against Bantag in the killing of Percy Lapid.
Remulla said he was told that Bantag rushed back to his house in Laguna last Sept. 9 because Percy Lapid was taking videos and photos of Bantag’s house and his vehicles.
Last Sept. 9, Remulla said that Bantag was supposed to attend the graduation ceremony at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who took courses provided by the University of Perpetual Help System Dalta.
“It’s a significant lead that he was absent on that day because on that day Percy Lapid went to his house to examine, to take pictures of his house and his vehicles,” Remulla said.
“The narrations given to me (last Nov. 8) are very clear about this matter,” he said.
“Actually, this is really for the prosecutors to introduce into evidence about the absence of General Bantag in the Sept. 9 graduation in Bilibid,” he said.
Remulla explained that Percy Lapid had come out with an expose about a “Cinderalla man” which was shown on his program “Lapid Fire” back in September.
He noted that all of the board of trustees of the university were present during the graduation ceremony last Sept. 9.
“They’re all present. These are people who really are doing a great service to the national penitentiary kasi they’re providing college education to many of the inmates who want to do it (because they’re providing college education to many of the inmates who want to do it),” he said.
“’Yung kanyang hindi pagbalik doon is a sign also that he was very mad, he was very, very livid about it (When Bantag did not return there, it is also a sign that he was very made, he was very, very livid about it),” Remulla pointed out.
Also, Remulla and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. have urged both Bantag and Zulueta to face the charges filed against them.
Zulueta was reported to have gone on absence without leave from BuCor, while Bantag is under surveillance on his whereabouts.
Remulla had said the DOJ will file before the courts pleadings for the issuance of precautionary hold departure order (PHDO) against Bantag and Zulueta to stop them from leaving the country.
It was not known immediately if the petitions for PHDO have been filed as of posting.
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