Philippine police charge former prison chief with famous journalist’s murder

Manila, Nov 7 (EFE).- The police and the intelligence department of the Philippines accused on Monday the former head of the Directorate of Correctional Services and Reintegration of the murder of prominent journalist Percy Lapid, who had denounced corruption in the prison environment.

The Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation filed two complaints Monday with the Department of Justice against former Bucor chief Gerald Bantag and an employee of Bucor for being the alleged ringleaders in the murder of Lapid and the alleged intermediary of the crime, Crisanto Villamor.

As published by the Philippine chain ABS-CBN News, Bantag was identified as the alleged person responsible for ordering the two murders, along with Ricardo Zulueta, director of Bucor’s operations and security service.

“It has been found through the investigation that both … were behind the murders of Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor,” Philippine intelligence spokesman Eugene Javier said at a Monday news conference.

The reasons, he added, were “the continuous revelations” that Lapid made through his radio program against Bantag, whom the journalist had accused of accepting bribes from prisoners and building “a mansion” on the outskirts of Manila.

Percibal Mabasa, 67, better known as Percy Lapid, presented a nightly program with tens of thousands of followers called Lapid Fire, where he denounced cases of abuse of power and corruption scandals involving politicians, members of the police or the army, and officials from ministries and public institutions.

The veteran reporter, particularly harsh on controversial former Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (2016-2022), was killed on Oct. 3, when two individuals on a motorcycle shot him dead while he was on his way to work in his vehicle north of Manila.

On Oct. 18, the police revealed the name of the person who had allegedly shot Lapid as Joel Estorial, who accused an inmate at the Bilbild maximum security prison in Manila as the man who paid the executioners to kill the reporter.

The police revealed the following day that the alleged ringleader of the operation, Jun Villamor, had been found dead after allegedly being suffocated with a plastic bag in his cell, three hours after Estorial’s statement.

Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos then suspended Bucor boss Gerald Bantag indefinitely for failing to protect the alleged ringleader in jail.

The police, who had previously identified Bantag as one of the 160 “persons of interest” in the crime due to the accusations that Lapid had made against him on his show, now indicate that Villamor’s murder could have been an attempt to Bantag to cover the attack on the journalist.

It’s a murder that shocked the Philippines, one of the most dangerous countries in which to practice journalism, according to Reporters Without Borders. EFE


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