Philippines: Prison Chief Charged Over Journalist 'Percy Lapid' Killing
On Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed murder complaints against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Gerald Bantag for the deaths of radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa, knowns as "Percy Lapid," and alleged middleman Jun Villamor
On Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed murder complaints against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Gerald Bantag for the deaths of radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa, knowns as "Percy Lapid," and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.
BuCor's Directorate for Security and Operations Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta has also been charged as an alleged mastermind of both cases, with various detainees also facing complaints for cooperation and direct participation in the killings.
NBI spokesman Eugene Javier stated that prisoners' sworn statements revealed a "clear and direct" line of communication between Bantag and Zulueta to three jailed gang leaders, adding that circumstances of Villamor's death indicate "that there were instructions from the top."
Gang leaders reportedly asphyxiated Villamor inside the prison after self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial gave in to police, claiming that detained gang members assigned Villamor to contract him for $9.4K to kill "Percy Lapid."
The radio broadcaster was shot dead in Manilla on Oct. 3 as he was driving to his studio, becoming the second journalist to be killed since Pres. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office in June this year.
He was a fierce critic of Bantag and other officials for alleged corruption and other prison anomalies.
Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by Rappler. This case could have already been solved, but the government has mishandled the probe by exposing the gunman and then failing to protect the alleged middleman. Focusing on Bantag is another mistake as there are another 159 people of interest in the "Percy Lapid" case, and his suspension only benefits corrupt BuCor officials and drug lords.
Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by CNN Philippines. Philippine authorities have gathered enough evidence to claim that Bantag is the mastermind behind the killings of "Percy Lapid" and Villamor. While there could be another mastermind behind him, the former prisons chief had a clear motive to order the reporter's death and should be held accountable.
Cynical narrative, as provided by Asia Sentinel. The identification of suspects involved in the "Percy Lapid" killing is a positive step, but justice must be served for all of them. Though the latest developments could be seen as a sign that the Philippines is taking action against impunity surrounding the murder of journalists, it's more likely that authorities are focused on it solely because Lapid was a prominent journalist murdered in esteemed Manila.