Cause of death unknown, police reveal another ‘middleman’ in custody
The alleged “middleman” who supposedly facilitated the murder of broadcaster Percival Mabasa, known as “Percy Lapid,” has died at the national penitentiary.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla made the announcement Thursday, hours after Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, officer in charge of the Philippine National Police Office of the Deputy Chief for Administration, said the PNP is working to ensure the safety of the “middleman.”
The PNP would later explain there were two “middlemen”— Crisanto Villamor who died inside the New Bilibid Prison at around 3 p.m. Tuesday, and another one who is detained inside the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The BJMP is under the Department of Interior and Local Government, while the NBP is supervised by the Bureau of Corrections, which is under the Department of Justice.
The police also released a photo of the gunman, Joel Escorial, pointing at a supposed photo of Villamor and positively identifying the deceased as the “middleman” who hired his team.
“For everyone’s information, if you can recall, the gunman said there were six of them who worked on this. Two middlemen contacted them. One is here at the BJMP,” said Brig. Gen. Kirby Kraft, chief of the Southern Police District and head of the Special Investigation Task Group on Mabasa’s case.
A report on TV Patrol showed a death certificate that indicated Villamor died of “undetermined cause” inside the NBP Hospital at 2:05 p.m. on October 18.
Mabasa’s brother, Roy, said his family is “deeply troubled” by Villamor’s death.
“This shows there is a wide-reaching conspiracy that led to the killing of my brother. This (Villamor’s death) will be a stumbling block to the progress of the case. How far can the go if there is no longer a middleman who will point to the mastermind?” Roy said.
“For days now, we have been appealing to authorities to secure and protect all those who are involved in this case,” he added.
Interior Sec. Benhur Abalos said he is dismayed with the death of the alleged gunman, and vowed to hold people accountable if foul play is proven.
“We are really dismayed with what happened. We are waiting for the autopsy result. And once it is proven there is foul play, we will really be angry. We will be very, very angry. We are demanding, should that be proven, that those responsible should be held accountable,” he said.
Abalos also assured that Escorial is safe.
“The gunman is with the Philippine National Police. He’s in very safe hands,” he said.
Remulla, for his part, urged independent forensic experts to check the autopsy.
Escorial earlier said that he and three others—siblings Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and a certain “Orly” or “Orlando”—participated in the ambush on orders from an unnamed person in Bilibid, and later split the P550,000 reward among themselves.
Escorial said he was the one who shot Mabasa while Orly was tasked to give them instructions in the ambush. He added there were six of them in the actual plan to kill Mabasa.
Mabasa was shot dead in a Las Piñas suburb on Oct. 3 as he drove to his studio. Police said it was highly probable the killing is related to his work.
He was the second journalist to be killed since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office on June 30, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
House of Representatives Minority Leader and 4Ps party-list Rep. Marcelino Libanan on Thursday urged the PNP “to spare no effort” in running after the mastermind.
“We welcome the break in the case… However, as far as we’re concerned, the case is unsolved as long as the mastermind is scot free,” Libanan said.
“No effort should be spared to single out, apprehend, prosecute and put behind bars the mastermind who supposedly paid for the contract killing,” he added.