Expert sees red flags in NBI autopsy findings on Percy Lapid slay ‘middleman’

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Expert sees red flags in NBI autopsy findings on Percy Lapid slay �middleman�
Family members grieve the loss of journalist Percival Mabasa at their home in Las Pinas, suburban Manila on October 4, 2022. Mabasa, a Philippine radio broadcaster was shot dead near his home in suburban Manila, police said on October 4, the latest in a long list of journalists killed in the country.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — One of the country’s top forensic pathologists saw red flags in the National Bureau of Investigation’s autopsy findings on one of the alleged middlemen in the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid.

In a series of tweets in reply to queries from Lapid’s brother Roy Mabasa, Philstar.com and Rappler, forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun said the NBI’s autopsy findings on Jun Villamor is “not a technical report” but “more of an office communication.”

Villamor, one of two alleged middlemen in the fatal ambush of Lapid, died inside the New Bilibid Prison on the day that Joel Escorial, the alleged gunman in the killing, was presented to the press.

Fortun pointed out that Dr. Marjorie Ann Sanidad, who was identified in the memorandum as the one who performed CPR on Villamor before declaring him dead, was “not really the best” to certify the death of the alleged middleman.

“Dr. Sanidad is the pronouncer, not really the best certifier available unless she did what DOH (Department of Health) promotes as a verbal autopsy,” Fortun said, referring to the process of interviewing family members knowledgeable on the probable cause of death of a person.

Autopsy after embalment

Fortun then raised why Villamor’s body was only autopsied two days after he died and after he was embalmed at Eastern Funeral Homes. 

This is not clearly reflected on the NBI memo which does not say when the autopsy was conducted, even as it was dated October 20.

The Bureau of Corrections said Villamor was declared dead at around 2 p.m. on October 18. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said Friday, October 21, that he sent out NBI agents to conduct an autopsy on Villamor’s body on Thursday, October 20.

With the autopsy along with a toxicology examination having been performed only after embalming, Fortun raised doubts on the potential results of these.

“Eh ‘di ba embalmed na nga? Ano kayang results ang lalabas wait tayo? (Isn’t the body embalmed? What kind of results would come out? Let’s wait,)” she said.

Fortun also questioned why a paraffin test was conducted on Villamor and why ballisticians were on standby in case bullets were recovered, when there were no signs of external injury or history of shooting.

She also found the findings suggesting that Villamor may have had a heart ailment before he died lacking.

“Check histopath, history, how old was he anyway? What are the other heart findings (weight, chambers, other valves, coronaries etc etc). Refer to a pathologist!” Fortun said.

Besides these, Fortun also flagged the lack of basic information on Villamor in the NBI memo, like sex and age.

She also noted that the findings revealed that Villamor is missing upper front teeth, which she said would have been useful to check if the deceased is the right Villamor.

She added that there was a neck examination done, but raised questions whether there was actually a neck dissection and if asphyxia is ruled out.

The NBI autopsy found that there were “no apparent sign of external physical injury” on Villamor’s body and suggested that he may have had a previous heart illness.

This reinforces the initial findings of the Bureau of Corrections that Villamor probably died of natural causes instead of foul play.

Asked if the NBI autopsy results now rule out foul play in the death of Villamor, Remulla only said: "We have to ask the doctor."

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