Instead of appearing and submitting his counter-affidavit on the two murder complaints filed against him, suspended Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Q. Bantag filed a motion to reconsider the denial of his plea to inhibit the panel of prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Through his lawyer Rocky Thomas A. Balisong, Bantag insisted that since the impartiality of the panel of prosecutors has been challenged “the most prudent thing to do is to inhibit from the cases.”
With the motion, the panel of prosecutors reset the continuation of the preliminary investigation at 2 p.m. on Jan. 31.
Bantag has been charged with murder for the deaths of radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” C. Mabasa and inmate Cristito Villamor Palana who was tagged by self-confessed gunman Joel S. Escorial as his “middleman” in the killing of the broadcaster.
Bantag’s co-respondents in the Percy Lapid killing are BuCor Deputy Security Officer Ricardo S. Zulueta, Escorial, brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and inmates Denver Batungbakal Mayores, Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosa Galicia, and Alfie Penaredonda.
In the Palana killing, Bantag’s co-respondents are Zulueta and inmates Labra, Galicia, Mario Germones Alvarez and Joseph Medel Georfo.
“Right now, we just received the motion for reconsideration on the order issued by the panel denying motion for inhibition of DG Bantag,” said Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie L. Guhit, a member of the DOJ panel of prosecutors.
Guhit said the lawyer of the Mabasa family, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) -- all complainants in the cases -- told the panel during the hearing that they will no longer file comments on the motion for reconsideration.
On the other hand, Palana’s sister – who is also a complainant -- has been given until Friday, Jan. 27, to file a comment on Bantag’s motion.
“We scheduled the status hearing on Jan. 31 at 2 p.m.,” Guhit said.
He noted that during the hearing, “there are no representatives of Zulueta and other respondents, the Dimaculangan brothers.”
“Since the hearing is continuing and the preliminary investigation (PI) is still open, they can always attend the hearing and submit their counter-affidavit,” he said.
“Now, when the PI is already closed, submitted for resolution, then that’s the time I can say that they waived their right to submit their counter-affidavit,” he warned.
He explained that under the rules that the non-submission of a counter-affidavit, which refutes the criminal allegations, is considered “as if they are submitting the case for resolution.”
He said the panel cannot yet seek before the courts the issuance of a precautionary hold departure order (PHDO) that prevents the respondents from leaving the country.
“Right now there is no motion from the complainants to file PHDO, so we cannot act on it right now,” he stressed.
On the motion for reconsideration, Balisong cited the murder complaints filed by Bantag before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) against Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin C. Remulla on the deaths of Mabasa and Palana.
“So, what we’re saying is there are two cases now, the case pending here and the case pending in the ombudsman, arose out of the same incident, referring to the same victims, referring to the same set of characters. So, it has to be consolidated since it is now in the nature of a charge, counter-charge,” Balisong said.
“And since the OMB and the DOJ, as clearly pointed out by the panel of prosecutors, have concurrent jurisdiction in cases like these, it should be brought to the Office of the Ombudsman whose impartiality has not been questioned by any of the parties,” he explained.
TAGS: #DOJ #Percy Lapid #Bantag #OMB