SUSPENDED Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) director General Gerald Bantag denied allegations that he masterminded the killing of veteran journalist Percy Lapid (real name Percival Mabasa) and the alleged middleman Cristito Villamor Palaña.

His legal counsel, lawyer Rocky Balisong, said in a television interview on Friday, November 11, 2022, that Bantag will clear his name through legal procedures.

Balisong said Bantag is not in hiding and that he will come out in due time.

He said Bantag refused to go public these days for security reasons but he vowed to face the charges filed against him.

“Sabi niya wala akong kinalaman dito at gusto kong linisin ang pangalan ko sa bagay na ito. Gusto rin niyang ma-receive na ang subpoena para makita at masagot din niya agad,” he said.

(He says I have nothing to do with this and I want to clear my name in this matter. He also wants to receive the subpoena so that he can see and respond immediately.)

“He is just here in the Philippines. He is not hiding. There is no reason for him to hide naman kasi wala pang (there is no) warrant of arrest… gusto niya linisin ang pangalan niya sa legal na proseso (He wants to clear his name through legal process) and he will be following the legal procedures,” he added.

Balisong said while it was reported that the subpoena was sent but was not received in Bantag’s last known address, he went to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and found out there was no subpoena yet.

He said they wanted to see the subpoena where the complaints will be attached in order for them to respond accordingly.

Balisong said they wanted to know how investigators came up with the matrix that points to Bantag as the brains behind the killing of Lapid and Palaña.

“Wala din po (siyang kinalaman sa pagpatay kay Palaña). Actually ‘yung dalawang krimen nga, kaya masama ang loob niya bakit bumagsak sa kanya lahat ang mga ito. Ang sinasabi niya is wala akong kinalaman diyan, gusto kong linisin ang pangalan ko sa legal na proseso. Yun ang sinasabi niya,” he said.

(He had nothing to do with Palaña’s murder. Actually, those are two crimes, that’s why he’s upset why these all fell on him. What he is saying is that I have nothing to do with that, I want to clear my name through legal process. That’s what he says.)

On Monday, November 7, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed murder charges against Bantag, Bucor security official Senior Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta and several persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) under the custody of Bucor over the killing of Lapid on the evening of October 3 in Las Piñas, and of Palaña inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on October 18.

Palaña was killed through suffocation using a plastic hours after Joel Escorial, who admitted serving as gunman in Lapid’s killing, was presented to the public in a press conference.

Escorial said the order to kill the radio broadcaster came inside the NBP and they were paid P550,000.

The NBI earlier said there was no direct piece of evidence linking Bantag to the incident. (SunStar Philippines)