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Bantag sues Remulla for Lapid murder  

Elizabeth Marcelo, Neil Jayson Servallos - The Philippine Star
Bantag sues Remulla for Lapid murder    
Suspended Bureau of Corrections director general Gerald Bantag.
STAR / Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — Suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag has filed charges of murder against Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. and several New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid.

In a 15-page complaint dated Jan. 4, Bantag asked the ombudsman to investigate Remulla and Catapang for the criminal offense of murder and administrative offenses of grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and conduct unbecoming of a public official.

Bantag also asked the ombudsman to immediately place Remulla and Catapang under preventive suspension while his complaint is being investigated to prevent them from “interfering and exerting undue pressure and influence” on possible witnesses as well as from “tampering (with) evidence.”

Aside from Remulla and Catapang, also named as respondents in the complaint were NBP inmates German Agojo, Alfie Penaredondo, Aldrin Galicia, Mario Alvarez and Alvin Labra.

In his complaint, Bantag identified Agojo as the one supposedly instructed by Remulla to look for people to kill Lapid.

Bantag maintained that Remulla is the mastermind behind the killing of Lapid and inmate Jun Villamor, the supposed middleman in Lapid’s slay.

Bantag alleged that Catapang conspired with Remulla by consenting to the transfer of Agojo and several other inmates from the NBP to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“The acts of the respondents, taken together, show that they were in conspiracy to commit the murder of Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor. In conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. Further, Secretary Remulla and General Catapang committed administrative breaches,” Bantag’s complaint read.

Bantag’s complaint came as he and former BuCor deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta are being investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the murder of Lapid and Villamor. The charges were filed by the Philippine National Police and the NBI last November.

Bantag had previously filed a motion for inhibition praying for the suspension of the DOJ investigation and the transfer of the complaint against him from the DOJ to the ombudsman.

Lapid, 63, was gunned down in Las Piñas on Oct. 3, 2022 he was on his way home from work. Lapid was a hard-hitting broadcaster who used to host the radio program “Lapid Fire” on dwBL 1242.

Later that month, Villamor died while in detention. His death came a day after the arrested gunman identified him as one of two individuals who supposedly served as middlemen in the contract to kill Lapid.

An autopsy report by forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun showed that Villamor’s body had a “history of asphyxia by plastic bag suffocation.”

‘Desperate act’

Remulla said yesterday he views the charges filed by Bantag as a “desperate act.”

“I don’t know where the legal theory is coming from but it’s OK… He’s trying to exhaust all his possible remedies, which is to go against me personally,” Remulla told reporters.

“But he cannot change anything. The cases will continue,” he added.

Bantag and Zulueta have had a long working relationship. They were officers of the Parañaque City Jail in 2016 when a grenade explosion killed 10 inmates. They were acquitted of homicide charges over the incident in 2020.

Bantag and Zulueta are facing charges for the death of Lapid and Villamor while those facing murder complaints for Lapid’s death are inmates Denver Mayores, Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia and Alfie Peñaredonda.

The inmates who face charges for Villamor’s killing are Labra, Galicia, Mario Alvarez, Joseph Georfo, Christam Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz and Joel Reyes.

Based on the timeline of the kill contract mapped by the DOJ, Bantag allegedly tasked Zulueta to lay down the instructions for the hit.

Zulueta then gave the instructions to Mayores, allegedly one of Bantag’s trusted aides who is detained at the Iwahig Prison in Palawan. Mayores then cascaded the orders to Batang City Jail gang leader Labra, who contacted Sputnik leader Galicia, who tasked Villamor – a supposed Sputnik member – to look for a hitman outside the NBP.

Villamor asked his acquaintance Christopher Bacoto, another alleged middleman, for help in looking for a hitman. The gunman they found, Joel Escorial, delivered the hit.

Peñaredonda, commander of the HappyGoLucky prison gang, allegedly served as the financier of the hit.

Meanwhile, another timeline on Villamor’s death showed how Bantag’s orders were cascaded in the same order, only this time, Galicia cascaded the orders down to Georfo and Alvarez, who then asked Sputnik gang members Ramac, Salgado, Dela Cruz and Reyes to kill Villamor.

“Alias Jokon (referring to Ramac) was the inmate who placed the plastic bag over Villamor’s head that suffocated him. Villamor did not struggle,” the DOJ timeline read.

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