MANILA — Joel Escorial, who confessed to having shot dead broadcaster Percival "Percy Lapid" Mabasa, appeared to be safe at an undisclosed Philippine National Police custodial facility as of Friday afternoon, as shown in a photo acquired by ABS-CBN News.
In the photo, Escorial is seen squatting on the pavement, in an orange shirt and printed shorts.
The picture was taken after following concerns on the safety of the persons involved in the broadcaster’s slay after one of 2 alleged "middlemen" died inside the National Bilibid Prison on Tuesday.
Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. on Friday said he ordered the PNP to tighten security measures for Escorial's safety.
“Inaatasan ko ang PNP na higpitan ang pagbabantay kay Joel Escorial pagkatapos ng masamang nangyari sa mga contact niya sa Bilibid. Siguruhin natin ang kanyang kaligtasan dahil siya ang susi sa pagresolba ng kasong ito,” said Abalos.
(I am ordering the PNP to tighten its watch over Joel Escorial after what happened to his contacts in Bilibid. Let us ensure his safety because he is the key in resolving this case.)
Mabasa was shot dead in a Las Piñas suburb by motorcycle-riding suspects as he drove to his studio. Police said it is highly probable the killing was related to his work.
Authorities presented Escorial to the media on Tuesday morning. He said he surrendered to the police out of fear for his life.
He told reporters he and 3 others took part in the ambush on orders from an unnamed person in Bilibid, and later split the P550,000 reward among themselves.
Escorial did not cite the motive nor identify the mastermind behind the killing.
On Tuesday afternoon, alleged middleman Jun Villamor died in the NBP Hospital.
Escorial positively identified Villamor through a photo.
While the cause of his death remained unclear, the Bureau of Corrections said its initial findings indicated no signs of foul play.
A second middleman is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and has been turned over to police custody, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said.
— With reports from Anna Cerezo, ABS-CBN News; Agence France-Presse