DOJ seeks precautionary hold departure order vs Lapid slay masterminds

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
DOJ seeks precautionary hold departure order vs Lapid slay masterminds
This undated file photo shows Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag.

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice is set to file a precautionary hold departure order against suspended Bureau of Corrections Director-General Gerald Bantag and his security officer Ricardo Zulueta, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla disclosed Tuesday.

Bantag and Zulueta are among the principal respondents of complaints filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police over the murders of radioman Percy Mabasa and Bilibid inmate Jun Villamor. 

At a chance interview with reporters Tuesday afternoon, the justice chief said he still has not spoken with Bantag while Zulueta, who was still reporting at the Bilibid when raps against him were filed, has since gone AWOL. 

But he said that Bantag cannot be considered in hiding yet, saying the law dictates authorities "have to give the summons to his last known address." Asked if the situation necessitated an immigration lookout bulletin order, Remulla responded in the negative.

"There’s no need because they’re public officials. They cannot leave the country without a travel authority," he said. 

An ILBO, issued by the Justice Department and the Bureau of Immigration, directs all immigration officers to closely report to the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation any attempt by the subjects to leave the country.

A hold departure is issued by the courts only if there are charges filed against the person, which would allow immigration officers to monitor and ultimately prevent any attempts to leave the country. Complaints have already been filed against Bantag and Zulueta and preliminary investigation is set to follow, which would allow prosecutors to seek precautionary HDO from the court.

"What's really more important here is that we are already filing a hold departure order. I already instructed the staff to start," Remulla said. 

On Monday, the NBI at a press conference disclosed that it found links between the gangs in the national penitentiary and Bantag and Zulueta, who supposedly asked them to raise money to pay a hitman to assassinate the tough-talking radio journalist. 

Zulueta is still at large and was last seen "four to five days ago," Remulla said at the same press conference earlier Monday. 

"Participate in the preliminary investigation…put your money where your mouth is. If you really have deniability, then tell us, bring the truth out in an affidavit and make your sworn statement. We don't have a bias here, we are not here to oppress anybody. We’re here to find out the truth. That is our job," Remulla appealed to the two. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag 





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