DEPARTMENT of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, they are seeking the issuance of a hold departure order against suspended Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) director Gerald Bantag and Bucor security official Senior Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta.

This came after the filing of complaints against Bantag and Zulueta due to their alleged involvement in the killing of hard-hitting radio broadcaster Percy Lapid (real name Percy Mabasa).

Remulla said he has already ordered the filing of a hold departure order request before the court.

He said there is no need to place Bantag and Zulueta under immigration lookout, as they cannot leave the country without a travel authority because they are public officials.

Remulla also expressed belief that there are no more other influential individuals behind Bantag, who was tagged as the alleged mastermind in Lapid’s slay.

“Sa tingin ko ay wala na,” he said.

Earlier, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) supervising agent Eugene Javier said they are not discounting the possibility that there is someone else, more powerful than Bantag, involved in the killing.

Lapid’s brother, Roy Mabasa, said they are hoping that the investigation will not at Bantag as there may be more persons who masterminded the execution.

On Monday, November 7, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the NBI filed murder complaints against Bantag, Zulueta and several inmates of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) over the killing of Lapid and Cristito Villamor Palaña, one of the alleged middlemen who contacted the self-confessed gunman, Joel Escorial.

Lapid was shot dead while on his way home on October 3 in Las Piñas, while Palaña was killed by his fellow NBP inmates on October 18, the day Escorial went public and admitted to the crime.

Remulla and Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said Bantag and Zulueta’s links to the crime are clear based on the sworn statements of the other respondents of the case, the NBP detainees who were tapped to execute the kill order.

But in a separate interview, Javier admitted there is no direct piece of evidence that could further implicate Bantag to the killing.

He said Denver Mayores, the inmate from Iwahig Prison in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, only directly implicated Zulueta as the person who called him and told him about the “order from the higher-ups.”

Mayores also recalled Zulueta saying “magagalit na si Tanda” (Tanda will get mad).

Javier said Tanda is how inmates call Bantag.

Mayores tapped gang leaders at the NBP for the mission.

Javier earlier said they are verifying intelligence information about another possible mastermind in Lapid’s slay.

Bantag has yet to comment on the complaints filed against him but he earlier denied involvement in the incident.

Meanwhile, PNP Chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said they will offer Bantag security considering that his aides were pulled out due to his suspension. (SunStar Philippines)