The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday said it has filed murder charges against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and former deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta over the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.
Justice Assistant Secretary and DOJ spokesperson Jose Dominic Clavano said the charge for the killing of Lapid was filed before the Las Piñas Regional Trial Court on March 14, while the charge for the killing of Villamor was filed on March 13 before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court.
The filing of the charges came after the DOJ found probable cause to indict Bantag, Zulueta, and others over the killing of Lapid and Villamor.
The DOJ’s panel of prosecutors stressed that the death of Villamor was intertwined with the death of Lapid and that it was used to cover up Lapid’s death.
In a press statement, the DOJ said “sufficient circumstantial evidence has been presented to establish that he masterminded the assassination” of Lapid, whose real name is Percival Mabasa.
Sought for comment, Bantag’s camp said they will file the necessary pleadings while Zulueta’s camp said they “expected” the indictment.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros meanwhile said the indictment of Bantag is an important step “toward justice for Lapid’s family, rebuilding genuine freedom of the press, and exorcising the culture of impunity.” She said this should be a stern warning that no one is immune from justice, not even uniformed personnel.
Hontiveros said an increasing number of law enforcers and military seem to be “possessed” by such brazenness that is causing unease among the public.
She said the military and police must seriously investigate its ranks and review its culture.
These crimes are a disgrace to the good men and women of the military and police who dedicate their lives to our nation.
“We can do better. I hope Malacañan will speak in protection of journalists and encourage them to keep speaking the whole truth,” she said
“The President, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, should speak directly to our military men and women, and remind them that their mandate is to the Filipino people,” she added.
According to the senator, she looks forward to the case proceeding smoothly and fairly.