Dared by prisons chief Bantag to quit, Remulla says: 'I won’t even answer it'

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 18 2022 03:15 PM | Updated as of Nov 18 2022 05:41 PM

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus “Boying” Remulla delivers his speech during the National Buereau of Investigation’s 86th founding anniversary program held at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Nov. 9, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus “Boying” Remulla delivers his speech during the National Buereau of Investigation’s 86th founding anniversary program held at the Diamond Hotel in Manila on Nov. 9, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla refused to address suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag’s challenge for him to resign from office, supposedly because he has lost moral ascendancy to run the justice department.

“I won’t even answer it,” he told reporters at the Department of Justice on Friday.

It was the first time the justice chief answered Bantag’s challenge in person, as he was on the way to Geneva, Switzerland for a working trip when Bantag dared him to resign on various TV interviews last week.

Bantag called him a “liar” and accused Remulla of trying to pin him down in the killings of radio commentator Percy Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.

Bantag said he would only surrender once a warrant of arrest is issued if Remulla steps down from office.

“Well, up to him. His lawyer knows better. He should ask his lawyer what he should do,” Remulla responded.

It was the Justice chief who revealed in an ambush interview last week that Bantag was supposedly livid when he found out Lapid, whose real name is Percival Mabasa, went to the prison chief's house in Laguna to take photos and videos of his house and cars, which the journalist supposedly aired on his program Lapid Fire.

That anger was allegedly one of Bantag’s motive for ordering Lapid’s killing.

But in an interview, Bantag belittled the video because some of the vehicles were supposedly not his.

Instead, he accused Remulla of ordering the taking of the video, a claim the Justice secretary dared Bantag to substantiate.

“Prove it. Wala naman e. These are bare allegations. I don’t want to say anything,” he said.

Remulla however denied knowledge about Bantag’s claim that he supposedly tried to free 2 inmates from the New Bilibid Prison.

In his interview last week, Bantag pointed fingers at a group led by BuCor inmate German Agojo who might be behind Lapid’s killing.

Agojo was allegedly the former boss of self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial and Villamor in a group responsible for the killing of a judge.

Bantag said that instead of investigating Agojo’s involvement, Remulla ordered that the inmate be transferred from an ISAFP facility to NBI custody.

According to Remulla, they tried talking to Agojo.

“We tried talking to him about…syempre sinubukan nating kausapin. Pero ayaw nya mag-cooperate. So far, wala,” he said. 

(Of course, we tried to talk to him. But he did not want to cooperate.)

Remulla said an informant had mentioned Agojo’s name as part of the alleged “Batangas group” which handled the Dimaculangan brothers.

The Dimaculangan brothers Israel and Edmond, who remain at large, are accused of accompanying Escorial when he shot dead Lapid outside a subdivision in Las Piñas on Oct. 3.

Remulla refused to answer the allegations thrown at him by Bantag, including his supposed lack of moral ascendancy due to the involvement of his son Juanito Jose in drug charges.

The younger Remulla is facing a drug possession case before a Las Piñas court and underwent preliminary investigation in Pasay for importation of illegal drugs after he was caught receiving a controlled delivery of almost a kilogram of high-grade marijuana or kush.

Instead, the justice secretary called on Bantag and the media to go beyond personal attacks.

“Name-calling is the name of the game. I do not engage in that. At our level here, we do not do that. And I don’t think media should even give it a time of day for people to do name-calling. Let’s elevate the profession to a better level. Walang ganunan,” Remulla said.