Additional murder complaints are poised over at least 10 new personalities involved in the killings of radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and alleged middleman Crisanto “Jun Villamor” Palana by Monday, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said yesterday.
Remulla earlier said the Department of Justice could file the additional charges by Saturday or Monday but said Friday that the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation are still discussing the cases.
“We’re playing it by ear, we’re trying to close everything as early as we can but there are 2 to 3 people that we still want to talk to just to be thorough about it,” he said.
Remulla did not confirm if these persons are government officials but said they are “very high in the chain” in the Lapid case. He said it would be up to the NBI and the PNP to disclose additional information.
Lapid’s brother, Roy Mabasa, claimed on ANC’s Dateline Philippines that the masterminds in Percival’s killing are former Bureau of Corrections officials, but the DOJ has yet to confirm the claim.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department said the remains of Jun Villamor will be brought back to Leyte, his home province, Saturday afternoon.
Villamor, a detainee at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, died on October 18 a few hours after the self-confessed gunman of Percy Lapid, Joel S. Escorial, was presented to the media.
Also, the DOJ said Escorial and the other alleged middleman, Christopher Bacoto, are unlikely to qualify for the witness protection program in the Percy Lapid case.
“That is unlikely because there are requirements, and the last one there—they should not have been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude,” DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said. “Because they are in maximum security, most likely they are convicted of a crime that involved moral turpitude.”
Moral turpitude refers to depraved or immoral acts such as murder, kidnapping, and rape.
In another development, Senator Raffy Tulfo called for a top-to-bottom investigation of the personnel of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and their offices to find out how contraband items, which are among the root causes of many crimes involving inmates, are persistently being smuggled into the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Tulfo said this upon learning from the sister of NBP inmate Jun Villamor that her brother had access to a mobile device while in prison.
By preventing the entry of contraband items, especially cellphones, which are used to communicate with the outside world, Tulfo said killings and other crimes could be prevented in Bilibid.
The new murder complaints will be different from the existing complaint being heard by the DOJ in connection with the Lapid killing, involving Escorial and Bacoto.
Escorial showed up at the preliminary investigation of the murder complaint on Friday but did not submit additional statements.
Bacoto was represented for the first time by his lawyer, Salvador Quimpo, who said he advised his client not to attend, since they still need to check the complaint and affidavits of witnesses.
But Quimpo said his client was surprised he was tagged in the Lapid killing, considering he has been detained at a BJMP jail for the past two years while on trial for drug possession and trafficking, and frustrated homicide and murder charges.
“He has been in prison at a high-security detention facility for the last two years so how can he do that? How can he recruit? He doesn’t know,” the lawyer said.
Other suspects in Lapid’s murder—brothers Israel and Edmond Dimaculangan, as well as a certain Orly—are still at large.
Escorial identified them as his companions when he shot the radio commentator in Las Piñas on October 3.
The investigating prosecutors gave Bacoto and the other respondents until next Friday, November 11, to submit their counter-affidavits.
Danilo Pelagio, the lawyer for the Mabasa family, said it is possible the new complaint in the Lapid case to be filed on Monday may be consolidated with the existing murder complaint before the DOJ.
The separate Villamor murder complaint could also be consolidated later, he said.
Meanwhile, the 13 Bureau of Correction (BuCor) inmates who are now under NBI custody may stay at the bureau even during the duration of the trial, if needed, to address security concerns, according to DOJ spokesperson Clavano.
Under Republic Act No. 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, a person who took part in a crime can become a state witness if has not at any time been convicted of any crime involving moral turpitude, among other conditions.
“But we will take measures. And we’ve also been bargaining with them to ensure they’re safe. We care about their safety obviously to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” the spokesman added.
Clavano said he is not aware of whether the inmates have applied for executive clemency. They previously expressed concern for their safety after providing statements to the NBI.
In her autopsy report on Villamor, forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel B. Del Rosario-Fortun stated that “based on available information regarding the circumstances surrounding the death, the manner is homicide.”
“There is information that he (Villamor) expressed fear for his life shortly before his demise and that he died from suffocation by means of a plastic bag over his head,” she said.
“The autopsy findings showed no gross morphologic cause of death and this is consistent with the reported asphyxia,” she added.
A television report said that Bilibid inmate alias “Jocon” said in a sworn statement that a prison mayor known as alias May-may ordered him and three other inmates to kill Villamor.
Jocon said he was the one who held the plastic bag to suffocate Villamor. His three companions held the alleged middleman’s hands, arms, and feet.