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Friday, July 19, 2024

CA denies Bantag plea to nullify murder charges in Mabasa death

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has denied the plea of former Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag seeking to nullify the murder charges filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against him and several others, in connection with the killing of radio broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and Bilibid inmate Jun Villamor in October 2022.   

In a four-page resolution authored by Associate Justice Ronaldo Roberto Martin, the CA’s Second Division upheld the orders issued by the Regional Trial Court of Las Piñas City on November 16, 2023 order and February 26, denying the motion to quash information and warrant of arrest issued by the court following his indictment for murder cases.    

The appellate court dismissed Bantag’s appeal for his failure to follow procedural rules on filing a petition for certiorari.

The CA noted that Bantag’s camp failed to secure the conformity of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in filing the petition.    

The appellate court cited a Supreme Court ruling that previously held that “only the OSG may bring or defend actions on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, or represent the People or State before the SC and the CA.”

According to the CA, the said rule is provided under Section 35 ( 1 ), Chapter 12, Title III, Book II of the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines.   

The appellate court further noted that Sections 12.5 and 12.6, Chapter XII2 of the Manual for Prosecutors requires that all requests to file petition for certiorari shall be first coursed through the Office of the Prosecutor General for evaluation and approval prior to endorsement to the OSG.    

“The said procedure along with the non-conformity of the OSG on the filing of instant petition for certiorari calls for the outright dismissal of the petition,” the CA emphasized.

“Wherefore, the petition is dismissed outright,” it ruled.

In his motion to quash filed before the Las Piñas RTC, Bantag argued that the DOJ panel of prosecutors did not have the authority to file the murder cases and that the trial court has no jurisdiction over the case as it falls under the original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan being the director general of the BuCor, a position ranked Salary Grade 30.    

On the other hand, in his petition before the CA, Bantag ascribes grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Las Piñas RTC when it denied his motion to quash.     

Bantag reiterated that the Sandiganbayan and not the RTC has jurisdiction over cases filed against him.    

The former Bucor chief is now considered a fugitive due to his failure to surrender to authorities following the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him.    

Bantag and his then deputy, Ricardo Zulueta were charged as principals by inducement in the Lapid killing.    

Zulueta died last March 15, 2024 due to heart failure while Bantags is still in hiding.  

Bantag was also charged as principal by inducement with the murder of  Villamor, the alleged middleman in the journalist’ killing.     

Several persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who were named as co-respondents In the two murder cases were convicted in July 2023 and sentenced to a maximum of eight years of imprisonment after they pleaded guilty for acting as accessories in the two killings.   

Authorities pointed to the radio commentator’s continued exposé of the issues against Bantag on his show “Lapid Fire” as the motive in the killing.              

For Villamor’s death, authorities said the motive was to cover up the murder of Percy Lapid.    

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