THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is not discounting the possibility that a person more influential than suspended Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) director Gerald Bantag masterminded the killing of veteran radio broadcaster Percy Lapid (real name Percival Mabasa).

In a television interview on Tuesday, November 8, 2022, NBI supervising agent lawyer Eugene Javier said they are verifying intelligence information about another possible mastermind in Lapid’s slay.

“We are not discounting that possibility na bukod pa kay Director General Bantag na merong puwede na ma-implicate sa kasong ito. But for now, at this point, dito muna tayo kila General Bantag, anyway, tuloy tuloy pa naman ang ating investigation,” he said.

(We are not discounting that possibility that aside from Director General Bantag, there is someone who could be implicated in this case. But for now, at this point, we’ll focus with General Bantag. Anyway, our investigation is still going on.)

On Monday, November 7, the NBI and Philippine National Police (PNP) filed murder complaints against Bantag, Bucor security official Senior Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta and Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) Denver Batungbakal Mayores, Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosa Galicia, and Alfie Peñaredonda over Lapid’s killing on October 3 in Las Piñas.

Another murder complaints were filed against Bantag, Zulueta, Labra, Micosa and Mario Germones Alvarez, Christam Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz Joel Reyes and Joseph Medel Georfo, also PDLs at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) over the death of Cristito Villamor Palaña, also known as Jun Villamor.

Palaña died on October 18, hours after the self-confessed gunman, Joel Escorial, was presented by the PNP publicly, a day after his surrender.

Several PDLs who are now under the custody of the NBI admitted involvement in Palaña’s killing, saying there was an order following the surrender of Escorial.

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

Bantag and Zulueta were named principals by inducement in both cases, while the other were principals by indispensable or direct cooperation.

In a joint statement, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Zulueta, a trusted aide of Bantag, called Mayores, who is detained at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan, and inform him about the assassination plan against Lapid.

“It was found through the investigation that both (Bantag and Zulueta) were behind the killing of both Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor (Palaña),” they said.

Mayores tapped Labra, commander of the Batang City Jail Gang, who in turn coordinated with Galicia the commander of Sputnik Gang, both at the NBP.

Palaña, a member of the Sputnik Gang, relayed the message to Christopher Bacoto, who contacted Escorial.

Among the basis of the complaint against Bantag and Zulueta were the sworn statements of the PDLs that matched the money trails and bank activity of the involved personalities.

Escorial, Israel Dimaculangan, Edmund Dimaculangan, and one alias Orly were earlier charged with murder in relation to Lapid’s death. They were paid P550,000 in exchange for Lapid’s killing.

The DOJ and DILG said Bantag has a clear motive in ordering the execution of Lapid amid his continuous tirades against him in his radio/online program “Lapid Fire.”

In one of Lapid’s program episodes in September, he showed a video of a “mansion” in a posh subdivision and a fleet of expensive vehicles of a Bucor official he named as “Cinderella.”

Viewers commented, saying Lapid was probably referring to Bantag.

It was confirmed by Lapid’s brother, Roy Mabasa, who said that he discussed Mabasa at least three times in his program.

Mabasa also agreed that Bantag’s implication on the case is clear.

But he said they hope that the investigation will not stop there.

“Hindi namin sana gusto na titigil lang ito diyan kay Bantag. Kung may nalalabing five percent (na investigation pa), sana’y patuloy pa rin saliksikin ito at malantad kung sino talaga ang mga taong nasa likod niyan,” Mabasa said in a television interview.

(We don’t want it to stop at Bantag. If there is a remaining five percent (which is still under investigation), I hope it will continue to be researched and who the people behind it will be exposed.)

Bantag earlier denied all the allegations linking him to Lapid’s death.

Office of the Press Secretary Officer-in-Charge Undersecretary Cheloy Garafil said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is “very much” aware of the situation.

“Hopefully, it will pave the way para talagang justice will be served to the family of Mabasa,” she told reporters on Monday, November 7. (SunStar Philippines)