MANILA - Two persons allegedly served as middlemen in the killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa last Oct. 3, a police official said Thursday, hours after Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said one of them who was at the New Bilibid Prison has died.
“Para sa kaalaman po ng lahat, matatandaan niyo po, anim po yung sinabi ng ating gunman na nagtrabaho. Dalawa po ang ating middlemen na kumontak sa kanila. Yung isa nga po ay nandito sa BJMP,” Brig. Gen. Kirby Kraft, chief of the Southern Police District and head of the Special Investigation Task Group focusing on Mabasa’s case, told reporters in Camp Crame.
Remulla earlier identified the alleged middleman at the NBP as Crisanto Villamor Jr. who reportedly died in the afternoon of Oct. 18. An autopsy has been conducted to determine the cause of death.
Subsequently, police released a photo of the gunman, Joel Escorial, pointing at a supposed photo of Villamor while purportedly positively identifying him as the middleman who hired his group to kill Mabasa.
During a press conference last Tuesday, Escorial claimed that orders to kill Lapid came from inside the NBP in Muntinlupa City.
In his media interviews, Mabasa’s brother, Roy, has also been mentioning only about an alleged middleman who is at the NBP, quoting the police.
On Wednesday night, Lt. Gen. Rhodel Sermonia, Deputy Chief for Administration of the Philippine National Police, spoke about a middleman who is in a jail facility in Metro Manila.
Told that Escorial himself said that the order came from someone in the NBP, Sermonia said on SRO on TeleRadyo, “Hindi po Bilibid. Wala pong sinabing Bilibid. Nasa detention cell po, jail… Wala po akong sinabing Bilibid… Nasa Metro Manila po na jail.”
In a separate interview Thursday morning on ANC’s Headstart, Sermonia said the detainee is still undergoing trial for drug-related charges.
Suspects under the custody of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology are those whose cases are still being heard in court, while those locked up in the NBP and other facilities of the Bureau of Corrections have already been convicted.
The BJMP is under the Department of the Interior and Local Government, while the BOC is under the Department of Justice.
“Kumpleto po kami ng isinagawang pag-iimbestiga. May mga ginawa po kaming request para malaman namin kung ito po talaga ay nakakulong sa Bilibid,” Kraft said at the Camp Crame press conference.
The officials refused to answer when asked whether Escorial had personally met with Villamor, in light of the supposed positive identification by the self-confessed gunman of the alleged middleman through the latter’s photos.
“Wag po tayong magmadali kasi meron po tayong proseso ng imbestigasyon. Wag tayong humingi ng details muna,” Kraft said.
‘MANANAGOT ANG DAPAT MANAGOT’
DILG Sec. Benhur Abalos said at the same news conference they feel bad over the reported death of the alleged middleman, noting the hard work investigators have put to resolve the case.
“Sa totoo lang, hinayang na hinayang kami sa nangyaring ito,” he said.
He warned that if foul play is proven, those behind it will be made accountable.
“Merong autopsy na ginagawa ngayon at malaman muna namin ang autopsy (result). Dahil once talagang merong foul play dito, talagang galit kami. Galit na galit kami. We are demanding, kung mangyari man yun, ang mananagot ay dapat managot,” he said.
Nonetheless, investigators will continue to talk to witnesses and double their efforts to gather other pieces of evidence until the mastermind is determined, Abalos said.
He assured that Escorial is safe.
“Yung gunman ay hawak ng Philippine National Police. He's in very safe hands.”
Mabasa’s brother, Roy, previously urged authorities to secure the alleged middleman, warning that if something happens to that person, "we'll all be facing the dead end."
- with reports from Johnson Manabat, Bianca Dava, and Raffy Santos, ABS-CBN News