120 bodies of BuCor inmates to be turned over to PGH for autopsy
MANILA — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla on Wednesday revealed what he called a new "significant lead" in the killing of radio commentator Percy Lapid.
Remulla said that Lapid supposedly went to suspended prisons chief Gerald Bantag's house in Laguna on September 9 to take photos and videos of his house and vehicles, which allegedly became the basis for his story on "Cinderella man."
"Cinderella man" is a nickname coined by Lapid on his radio program "Lapid Fire" which supposedly referred to a government official who allegedly amassed wealth while in office.
While Lapid never mentioned the name of Bantag in his program, Remulla said the Cinderella man story angered the prisons bureau chief.
"Si Percy Lapid nagpunta sa bahay niya sa Laguna. 'Yun 'yung, pagkatapos nun, lumabas 'yung Cinderella man ni Percy Lapid. That was the basis," Remulla told the media on the sidelines of the NBI’s 68th anniversary at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.
(Percy Lapid went to Bantag's house in Laguna. Then, the Cinderella man story of Percy Lapid was released. That was the basis.)
“That day itself, noong nalaman ni Bantag, ni Gen. Bantag na andun si Percy Lapid sa Laguna, medyo nagalit. Nawala na siya, he didn’t anymore [go] back to Bilibid. He went back to Laguna and then di na siya um-attend ng graduation," he added, referring to the graduation of inmates who were enrolled in a joint education program between the University of Perpetual Help and the BuCor.
(That day itself, when Bantag knew Percy Lapid was in Laguna, he got mad. He disappeared. He didn’t go back to Bilibid anymore. He went back to Laguna and then he skipped the graduation.)
"'Yung kanyang hindi pagbalik dun is a sign also that he was very mad, he was very, very livid about it," he continued.
(His refusal to go back was a sign also that he was very mad, he was very, very livid about it.)
Remulla said the new information was relayed to him only on Tuesday and was something prosecutors would have to introduce into evidence.
“It’s a significant lead that he was absent on that day because on that day Percy Lapid went to his house to examine, to take pictures of his house and his vehicles. And the narrations are very clear, given to me are very clear, about this matter,” he said.
According to the justice secretary, Lapid’s Cinderella man story came out on September 15, a few days after Lapid’s September 9 visit to Bantag’s house in Laguna.
“Tapos September 17, nagsimula na 'yung plots, nagsimula na lahat. Everything came to motion. Kaya makikita n'yo, meron talagang, there’s a string that ties everything together,” he said.
(Come September 17, everything started. Everything came to motion. If you're gonna look into it, there's a string that ties everything together.)
The NBI and the Philippine National Police on Monday filed murder complaints against Bantag and former BuCor Directorate for Security and Operations Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, along with Bilibid gang commanders and inmates, over the killings of Lapid in Las Piñas on October 3 and Jun Villamor, an alleged middleman, inside Bilibid on October 18.
Zulueta has since gone on absence without leave and is reportedly hiding while authorities are tracking the whereabouts of Bantag.
Remulla again appealed to them to cooperate in the DOJ’s preliminary investigation.
“Sana, sumagot sila ng counteraffidavit, huwag sila sa media sasagot. Mag-counteraffidavit sila. Yan ang proseso ng batas natin e. Igalang nila ang batas. Alagad sila ng batas tapos ganyan sila magsalita di ba? Walang drama-drama. Face it like a man,” he said.
(I hope they just answer with a counter-affidavit and refrain from facing the media. That's the process. They should respect the law. They're law enforcers and yet that's how they talk? No drama. Face it like a man.)
Remulla confirmed that the two are still in the country.
The Justice chief on Tuesday said they will no longer issue an immigration lookout bulletin order but will apply for a hold departure order in court, which he said is now being processed.
Bantag in October told DZRH he had nothing to do with the killing.
Meanwhile, Remulla announced the DOJ and the UP-PGH will enter into an agreement for the autopsy of 120 bodies of BuCor inmates that are still at the Eastern Funeral Services in Muntinlupa, the sole funeral home accredited by BuCor.
The bodies are among 176 remains earlier reported unclaimed, which the funeral home said it would soon dispose.
Remulla said the NBI will be given the first crack at the autopsy results but the PNP will also be furnished copies.
But what happens to the more than 50 other cadavers?
“We will see. Ang trabaho ng DOJ ngayon and the attached agencies is to locate the families of the people. Remember they’re cadavers of people who had families. Subukan natin bigyan sila ng decent burial. We’ll try to give them a decent burial,” he said.
(We will see. The DOJ's task now and its attached agencies is to locate the families of the people. Remember they’re cadavers of people who had families. We’ll try to give them a decent burial.)
Remulla also vowed to give forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun a copy of NBI’s autopsy report on alleged middleman Jun Villamor.
Fortun conducted the second autopsy which found the presence of drugs in Villamor’s urine and concluded that he died of asphyxiation through suffocation with plastic.
The earlier NBI autopsy did not find any external physical injury on Villamor.
Remulla insisted there is no inconsistency between the 2 reports.
He said the NBI conducted its autopsy "on the first day of our investigation" and "without any inkling of what the case is all about."
“We only knew that Percy Lapid was killed and that this inmate was dead and we had to find out why. So the NBI had no information, was blind at that time,” he explained.
“There is no inconsistency with the findings of Dr. Fortun because Dr. Fortun’s findings were already educated by the dying declaration which we gave to her and the affidavit, we also furnished her, to see if her findings would be consistent with that. So in that regards there is no consistency,” he added.
The DOJ has yet to announce the prosecutors assigned to handle the murder complaints over the death of Lapid and Villamor.