Over a year since the killing of radio broadcast Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa on Oct. 3, 2022, two alleged masterminds remain at large.
Mabasa was the second of now four journalists killed under the Marcos administration. He was known for his scathing commentary of the government, particularly of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
There were 160 persons of interest in Lapid’s killing. Murder charges were filed against two alleged masterminds. Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and BuCor Directorate for Security and Operations (DSO) Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta were accused of killing of Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor, who died in the custody of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
The charges were archived pending their arrest. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has offered a P2-million and P1-million reward for information on Bantag and Zulueta, respectively.
The following timeline plots key updates on Lapid’s slay case.
Oct. 3, 2022
Motorcycle-riding gunmen shot Lapid inside his vehicle in Barangay Talon Dos in Las Piñas City.
Oct. 4, 2022
Lawmakers and various groups condemned the killing. The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) created a special investigation task force. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it would conduct a separate motu proprio investigation.
Oct. 5, 2022
Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. offered a P500,000 reward for information on Lapid’s killers. Abalos assured the public that the government was “trying [its] best” to solve the case.
Oct. 7, 2022
The NCRPO released CCTV footage of the alleged gunman walking along a street near the crime scene. He was later identified as Joel Escorial.
Lawyer Alex Lopez offered an additional P1 million for information on Lapid’s killers, tripling the total bounty.
Oct. 9, 2022
Lapid was laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
The House of Representatives offered an additional P5 million reward, raising the total bounty to P6.5 million.
Oct. 17, 2022
Escorial surrendered to authorities “out of fear for personal safety.” At a press conference the following day, he identified three other accomplices — brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and another known only as “Orly” or “Orlando.”
He claimed that his group received P550,000 for the job. Of this, Escorial said he got P140,000. The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) would later confirm that the total amount was deposited into Escorial’s bank account in tranches over three weeks.
Escorial added that the order to kill Lapid came from someone in the NBP.
Meanwhile, NBP inmate Jun Villamor, alleged middleman, died at the prison hospital. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla would announce his death two days later.
Oct. 19, 2022
Lapid’s brother Roy Mabasa filed a murder complaint against Escorial and his three accomplices in the DOJ.
Oct. 20, 2022
Remulla announced Villamor’s death in NBP custody. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) performed an autopsy on Villamor’s body.
The Southern Police District identified alleged second middleman Christopher Bacoto, who is also known as Jerry Sandoval.
Bacoto was facing separate charges of drug possession and trafficking as well as three counts of frustrated homicide charges. He was detained at a Bureau of Jail and Management Penology (BJMP) facility.
Oct. 21, 2022
Remulla announced that BuCor director general Gerald Bantag had been placed under preventive suspension by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Retired Armed Forces chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. was named temporary BuCor chief.
BuCor spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag confirmed Villamor’s death.
Oct. 22, 2022
The NBI released its autopsy report that stated there were no signs of foul play and no sign of physical injury on Villamor.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun criticized the autopsy report, pointing out that it was done two days after Villamor’s death and after the body had been embalmed.
Oct. 24, 2022
PNP chief Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said Bantag was one of 160 persons of interest in Lapid’s killing. Bantag was included because he had been criticized in “Lapid Fire,” Lapid’s radio program that aired on dwBL and livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube.
Remulla would later claim that Bantag appeared to have been furious after Lapid took photos of his home and vehicles in September. Lapid implied in his radio program that these assets could have been products of corruption.
Meanwhile, in ABS-CBN’s exclusive report, Villamor’s sister disclosed the aliases of three suspects in the killing. The three “commanders” were known by their aliases “Sputnik,” “Happy Go Lucky,” and “BCJ.”
Villamor gave these names in a text message that he sent his sister before he died, using a cellphone from inside NBP. Inmates were prohibited from having access to cellphones on Bantag’s watch.
Villamor’s sister was placed under the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program.
Oct. 25, 2022
Fortun conducted a second and independent autopsy on Villamor’s body.
Oct. 26, 2022
Remulla said at least three persons — including Villamor’s sister, Villamor’s cousin Jose, and Bacoto, alleged second middleman — were in government custody.
Escorial’s three accomplices were still at large, while the cellphone Villamor used remained missing.
Oct. 27, 2022
The NBI and PNP launched a joint investigation of Villamor’s death. Remulla said the DOJ was looking at other angles, including the possibility that Villamor was also murdered.
Oct. 29, 2022
A re-autopsy report was released to the public. It revealed the cause of Villamor’s death as asphyxia or suffocation with a plastic bag, which was consistent with the findings of the first autopsy.
Nov. 7, 2022
Murder complaints were filed against Bantag, BuCor Directorate for Security and Operations (DSO) Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, and other persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) allegedly involved in the killing of Lapid and Villamor.
For Lapid’s killing, the complaints were filed against the following:
• Bantag and Zulueta as principals by inducement
• Denver Mayores, Alvin Labra, Aldrin Galicia, and Alfie Peñaredonda, who were all PDLs, as principals by indispensable cooperation
For Villamor’s death, the complaints were filed against the following:
• Bantag and Zulueta as principals by inducement
• Labra, Galicia, Mario Alvarez, and Joseph Georfo, who were all PDLs, as principals by indispensable cooperation
• Christian Ramac, Ricky Salgado, Ronnie dela Cruz, and Joel Reyes, who were all PDLs, as principals by direct participation.
Nov. 11, 2022
In an exclusive interview with SMNI, Bantag denied the allegations against him.
Nov. 14, 2022
In an interview with CNN Philippines, Bantag said he would not surrender to authorities, even if a warrant of arrest would be issued against him, as long as Remulla remained justice secretary. He would later signify his intent to surrender twice in early 2023, but then reiterated that he would not turn himself in until Remulla stepped down in September 2023.
In the same interview, Bantag also said that Zulueta would not turn him in.
Nov. 16, 2022
Subpoena was served at Bantag’s last known address in Caloocan City. A total of 11 subpoenas and summons were sent out.
Nov. 23, 2022
The DOJ opened the preliminary investigation of the complaints against Bantag and several others over the killing of Lapid and Villamor.
Both Bantag and Zulueta skipped the proceedings, but the former sent a lawyer to represent him.
Dec. 5, 2022
Bantag filed a motion for inhibition to transfer the preliminary investigation from the DOJ to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Dec. 7, 2022
The DOJ issued an immigration lookout bulletin order against Bantag and Zulueta.
Jan. 18, 2023
The DOJ junked Bantag’s motion for inhibition.
Jan. 5, 2023
Bantag filed murder and administrative complaints against Remulla and Catapang in the Ombudsman. He accused Remulla of masterminding the killing of Lapid and Villamor.
Feb 8, 2023
DOJ prosecutors wrapped up their preliminary investigation of the murder complaints filed against Bantag. Zulueta skipped the proceedings. The case was submitted for resolution.
Feb. 14, 2023
Zulueta filed a counter-affidavit denying the allegations against him.
March 9, 2023
The DOJ’s panel of prosecutors indicted Bantag and Zulueta over the killing of Lapid and Villamor as principals by inducement.
For Lapid’s killing, the following were also charged:
• Escorial, Dimaculangan brothers, and alias Orly, as principals by direct participation
• Mayores, Labra, Galicia, Peñaredonda, and Bacoto, who were all PDLs, as principals by indispensable cooperation
For Villamor’s death, the following were also charged:
• Alvarez, Georfo, Ramac, Salgado, Dela Cruz, and Reyes, who were all PDLs, as principals by direct participation
The DOJ claimed there was a direct line of communication from Zulueta to Mayores, then Mayores to Labra. Labra messaged Galicia, who instructed Villamor to find a gunman.
Galicia led the “Sputnik” gang and Labra, the “Batang City Jail” or “BCJ” gang inside NBP.
The group was supposedly referred to Escorial, Lapid’s gunman, through Bacoto.
Following Lapid’s killing, Galicia also supposedly received instructions from Labra, through the same communication chain, to kill Villamor.
Galicia relayed the instructions to Georfo, a member of the “Sputnik” gang. Georfo passed on the instructions to Alvarez.
Alvarez instructed Salgado, Ramac, Dela Cruz, and Reyes to suffocate Villamor with a plastic bag.
Peñaredonda led the “Happy Go Lucky” gang inside NBP.
April 12, 2023
A Muntinlupa court issued a warrant for the arrest of Bantag and Zulueta over Villamor’s death. Murder is a non-bailable offense.
April 14, 2023
A Las Piñas City court issued a warrant for the arrest of Bantag, Zulueta, the Dimaculangan brothers and alias “Orly” over Lapid’s murder.
April 25, 2023
A Muntinlupa court issued a hold departure order against Bantag and Zulueta.
June 19, 2023
The NBI and DOJ offered a P2-million reward for information leading to Bantag’s arrest. Another P1-million reward was offered for Zulueta’s arrest.
June 23, 2023
NBP inmates Galicia, Labra, and Peñaredonda pleaded guilty to a lesser offense of being accessories in Lapid’s killing. A Las Piñas City court sentenced them to two years to eight years in prison.
June 29, 2023
A Muntinlupa court sentenced several NBP inmates after they pleaded guilty to Villamor’s killing.
Labra, Galicia, and Georfo were sentenced up to eight years and one day in prison, and ordered to pay the complainant P50,000 as civil indemnity, P50,000 as moral damages, and P50,000 as exemplary damages.
Alvarez, Ramac, Salgado, Dela Cruz, and Reyes were sentenced up to 14 years, eight months, and one day in prison. They were ordered to pay P75,000 as civil indemnity, P75,000 as moral damages, and P75,000 as exemplary damages to the complainant.
Meanwhile, the murder case against Bantag and Zulueta was archived. This would be revived when they are arrested and brought to court.
July 10, 2023
In a petition filed on this day and released only on Aug. 8, Bantag accused Remulla and DOJ prosecutors of committing grave abuse of discretion in filing two separate counts of murder against him in the Court of Appeals.
He also challenged the DOJ jurisdiction over the murder case against him. As a public official accused of a crime, he argued that he should have been investigated by the Ombudsman and his case eventually heard by the Sandiganbayan.
Aug. 14, 2023
Escorial filed a motion for plea bargain in a Las Piñas City court, offering to plead guilty to the lesser offense of homicide that comes with a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. He also asked to be transferred to Samar for fear of his safety.
Mabasa said their lawyers were looking into the matter “very closely.”
Sept. 14, 2023
Vloggers Coach Oli, Banat By, and Boss Dada TV — collectively known as “Banatero Brothers” — posted a three-part “exclusive” interview with Bantag on their Facebook and YouTube accounts.
Remulla said the DOJ would file charges for contempt of court against them.
Oct. 3, 2023
Exactly one year since Lapid was killed, the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All network called for urgent attention to court hearings.
Oct. 19, 2023
The “Banatero Brothers” again posted an audio interview with Bantag.
In the vlog, Bantag said he wanted to face the allegations against him but would only do so if Remulla steps down as justice secretary.
Oct. 27, 2023
The Ombudsman dismissed the murder complaints filed by Bantag against Remulla and Catapang over Lapid’s killing. The order was dated May 16 but released only on this day. END