THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has indicted suspended Bureau of Correction director Gerald Bantag and former deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta for two counts of murder charges in relation to the death of veteran radio broadcaster Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman and person deprived of liberty (PDLs) detained at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

In a resolution dated March 9, 2023, the panel of prosecutors found probable cause to indict Bantag and Zulueta as “principals by inducement on the two cases” on the basis of the extrajudicial testimonies of Joel Escorial, who surrendered to authorities and admitted serving as the gunman in Lapid’s slay.

Escorial and other suspects identified as Israel Dimaculangan, Edmon Dimaculangan, and a certain Orlando were also indicted for Lapid’s murder as “principals by direct participation.”

Five PDLs of the NBP, namely, Denver Mayores, Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia, Alfie Peñaredonda and Christopher Bacoto, were also indicted as “principals by indispensable cooperation” in relation to Villamor’s death.

Aside from Bantag and Zulueta, Labra and Galicia, who were gang leaders at the NBP, were also tagged as principals by inducement.

Other PDLs identified as Mario Alvarez, Joseph Georfo, Christian Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz and Joel Reyes were indicted as principals by direct participation.

Lapid was killed while driving on his way home in Las Piñas on October 3, 2022.

Escorial surrendered days later, saying they were paid P550,000 in exchange for Lapid’s execution.

On the same day that Escorial turned himself in, Villamor, whom he named, along with Bacoto, as those who contacted him for Lapid’s killing, was found dead in his cell.

Before he died, Villamor was able to send his last message to his sister in Leyte informing her about who might kill him, as well as those involved in Lapid’s killing.

Villamor was allegedly killed by the other PDLs through suffocation using a plastic bag in an attempt to cover up links to Lapid’s death.

Bantag earlier denied links to Lapid’s killing and said he is ready to face all the allegations against him. (SunStar Philippines)