SUSPENDED Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag and several others have been indicted for two counts of murder over the killing of radio commentator Percy Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.
Bantag and his former deputy Ricardo Zulueta are tagged in the 2 killings as principals by inducement or those who offer money or reward in exchange for the commission of a crime.
In a resolution, the DOJ panel, also named Sr. Supt. Ricardo Zulueta and inmates Alvin Labra and Aldrin Galicia as respondents for two counts of murder alongside Bantag.
Likewise named respondents for Lapid’s killing are Joel Escorial, a certain Edmon Dimaculangan, a certain alias Orlando, inmates Denver Mayores and Alfie Peñaedonda, and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) detainee Christopher Bacoto. Escorial is the confessed hitman in the veteran broadcaster’s ambush slay case.
For Villamor’s murder, the panel has also named as respondents Mario Alvarez, Joseph Georfo, Christian Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz, and Joel Reyes.
“The preliminary investigation established that the murders of Mabasa and Villamor were attended by conspiracy between and among the respective respondents. The plan of the respondents to kill them both, includng its execution, was shown by the evidence for the complainants,” read the DOJ briefer.
In the resolution dated March 9, 2023, prosecutors found probable cause to charge the accused for Lapid’s murder relying largely on the extrajudicial confession of self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial.
Escorial admitted shooting Lapid outside his subdivision in Las Piñas on October 3, 2022 with 3 companions who remain at large, in exchange for P550,000.
Prosecutors said they found evidence of receipt and distribution of the money.
Escorial and his companions Israel Dimaculangan, Edmon Dimaculangan and alias Orly are tagged as principals by direct participation.
Five persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) or inmates are considered principals by indispensable cooperation, namely, Denver Mayores, Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia, Alfie Peñaredonda and Christopher Bacoto.
Escorial pointed to Bacoto and the slain Villamor as the ones who allegedly contacted him to kill Lapid.
Prosecutors said that without the cooperation of the PDLs, the killing could not have been achieved.
While the PDLs identified Zulueta as the person who allegedly called one of the inmates to give orders to assassinate Lapid, there was no direct evidence linking Bantag to the killing.
However, prosecutors cited several circumstantial evidence indicating Bantag’s involvement such as the mention of the terms “itaas” and “tanda” to supposedly refer to Bantag. They also considered Zulueta’s close relationship to Bantag.
Prosecutors also gave value to Escorial’s statement that Villamor allegedly told him on the evening of October 16, 2022, 2 days before Villamor was killed, that it was “Bantag” who ordered the Lapid killing.
“Although the credibility of respondent Escorial is being questioned, case law provides that the presumption that no person of normal mind would deliberately and knowingly confess to a crime unless prompted by truth and conscience such that it is presumed to be voluntary until the contrary is proved stands,” the resolution said.