MANILA — The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has launched a manhunt operation for former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and former BuCor deputy officer Ricardo Zulueta in connection with the killing of journalist Percival "Percy Lapid" Mabasa and Jun Villamor.
This was after the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court Branch 206 issued the warrant of arrest against Bantag and his former deputy Ricardo Zulueta on April 12, 2023.
"Sa bisa ng Warrant of Arrest na aming nakuha ay agaran kong ipinag-utos ang isang malawakang manhunt operation upang madakip ang mga nasabing mastermind sa pagpatay kina Percy Lapid at Villamor," said PBGen. Romeo Caramat Jr., the director of the CIDG.
Caramat ordered the creation of tracker teams that would "focus on the case build-up and operational research to determine the whereabouts of the accused."
"Ang pagbuo ng tracker teams na ito ay may layong mapabilis at magkaroon ng mas planadong paghahanap at pagtugis sa mga akusado upang masiguradong kahit saang panig ng Pilipinas mula rito sa Metro Manila hanggang Mindanao ay ma-cover natin sa ating gagawing manhunt operation," he said.
Police on Thursday morning attempted to serve the arrest warrant for Bantag at his home in Caloocan. He was not there.
Justice Department prosecutors in March indicted Bantag and Zulueta for 2 counts of murder.
They were tagged in the deaths of Lapid and alleged middleman Villamor as principals by inducement or those who offered money or reward in exchange for the commission of the crime.
Lapid was shot dead near his home last October after making comments online that appeared to link Bantag to corruption.
Bantag had previously denied any corruption or role in the killings.