DOJ set to resolve murder charges vs. Bantag, others for killings of Percy Lapid, ‘middleman’

Percy Lapid

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) panel of prosecutors submitted for resolution the two murder complaints against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Q. Bantag and several other respondents.

Bantag was charged as “principal by inducement” in the killings 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 slaying of the broadcaster on Oct. 3, 2022 in Las Pinas City.

“In today’s (Feb. 8) hearing, the panel informed all parties that the cases are now submitted for resolution,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie L. Guhit, a member of the panel conducting the preliminary investigation of the murder complaints, said in a press briefer.

“Respondent Bantag submitted his counter-affidavit ‘ex abundanti ad cautelam’ (out of an abundance of caution), while the other respondents PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) submitted the cases for resolution without their respective counter-affidavits,” Guhit said.

He said that during the hearing, the PDL-respondents told the panel “they are adopting their sinumpaang salaysay (sworn statements) as their counter-affidavits.”

He also said that another respondent in the murder complaints, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) inmate Christopher Bacoto “already submitted his counter-affidavit in the previous hearing.”

The two other respondents, brothers Edmon Dimaculangan and Israel Dimaculangan, neither appeared nor sent legal counsels.

Guhit said that Atty. Julieta Puday appeared during the hearing as collaborating counsel of lawyer Lauro Gacayan, who represents Bantag’s co-accused, BuCor Deputy Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta.

“She asked for copies of subpoena and complaints, including supporting documents thereof. The Panel clarified, based on records, that Atty. Gacayan did not formally enter his appearance in these cases, hence, Atty. Puday could not be considered as collaborating counsel to represent respondent Zulueta. Nevertheless, the Panel furnished her copies of the requested documents,” he noted.

After the hearing, lawyer Rocky Thomas A. Balisong, the legal counsel of Bantag, said that what was submitted before the panel was a counter affidavit “ex abundanti ad cautelam.”

“This simply means that while we are following the rules on submission of counter- affidavit and it is ‘ad cautelam’ because we are not abandoning our original stand of continuing to question the jurisdiction of the panel and the whole DOJ,” Balisong said.

“In other words, this will not be treated as abandoning our motion for inhibition because we’ll still push with it before the proper authorities,” he also said as he stressed his allegation that the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) has jurisdiction to conduct the preliminary investigation.

He said that the counter-affidavit cited “several inconsistencies” in the testimonies of the witnesses against Bantag including that of issued by Escorial.

“‘Yung statement nung gunman na sinabi niya na as early as Sept. 5 ay nag-usap na sila ni Palana na ipapapatay si Percy Lapid (The statement of the gunman who said he was contacted by Villamor to kill Percy Lapid),” Balisong said.

He said that Percy Lapid released the same day (Oct. 3, 2022) the alleged expose against Bantag that questioned how quickly the suspended BuCor official amassed wealth.

He pointed that the “this does not also align with the statements of two other respondents, inmates Alvin Cornista Labra and Aldrin Micosa Galicia, who both testified that on Sept. 17 they agreed to arrange the killing of Mabasa.

“So that is inconsistent with the statement of the gunman when he stated that as early as September 5 he and Villamor already talked with each other for the killing of Percy Lapid,” he stressed.

TAGS: #DOJ #Percy Lapid #Bantag