Remulla says no info if Zulueta is dead; believes he and Bantag are still in PH
MANILA — Suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag is ready to face the allegations against him, his lawyer said on Monday as he received at the Department of Justice (DOJ) the subpoena issued for his client to attend the preliminary investigation on Nov. 23.
“Handang handa siya... inutusan kami na kunin ‘yung subpoena, so he is ready” Rocky Tomas Balisong, Bantag’s lawyer, told the media.
(He is ready. He instructed us to get the subpoena.)
The subpoenas are for 2 murder complaints involving the killing of radio commentator Percy Lapid in Las Piñas on Oct. 3 and alleged middleman Jun Villamor inside the New Bilibid Prison on Oct. 18.
According to the DOJ, the subpoenas were deemed served last Tuesday when the process server went to Bantag’s house in Caloocan.
But Balisong, Bantag’s lawyer, said copies of the subpoena were not left in his house in Caloocan but in the barangay hall, which did not comply with the requirements under the rules.
“As far as we are concerned, there is no such subpoena which has been served to our client on Nov. 14, 2022,” he said.
Balisong came all the way from Baguio, where Bantag is currently staying.
“Gustong gusto na rin namin. This is our eagerness and because our client is ready to answer all the allegations against him,” he said.
Balisong said his client would have wanted to personally claim the subpoena but he advised against it because it’s not necessary.
Despite receiving the subpoena, Balisong said they will still study if Bantag will attend Wednesday’s preliminary investigation, depending on the allegations in the complaint that they need to address.
“We will assess yung complaint and with all the attachments dito sa complaint na ito. We will assess if he will be coming with us on Wednesday to attend the initial preliminary investigation or not,” Balisong said.
“Depende kasi sa mangyayari sa Wednesday. Kung magsa-submit kami ng counter-affidavit and the panel requires that it should be subscribed before them, then isasama namin siya. Pero kung titingnan namin kung pwede naman ipa-subscribe sa other prosecutors like Baguio prosecutors then siguro hindi na kailangan na sumama,” he added.
(It depends on what will happen on Wednesday. If we will submit a counter-affidavit and the panel requires that it should be subscribed before them, then we will bring him with us. But if we think if it could be subscribed before other prosecutors like Baguio prosecutors then perhaps he need not go.)
Balisong said he would also manifest on Wednesday that he just received the subpoena for Bantag today or 2 days before the scheduled probe.
The lawyer tried to pay a courtesy call to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla but was told by DOJ staff that the official was busy.
Remulla earlier held a press conference where he was asked about the service of subpoena on Bantag.
“The DOJ is doing its job, whether or not he received it, there is a process for it. Whether it will be left with this last known address, to be served to his lawyer or serve to him is a problem of the DOJ, in accordance with the rules set out by the Supreme Court and also on this matter,” he said.
But he challenged Bantag to just show up during the preliminary investigation, following Bantag’s new dare for Remulla to prove he could still get justice even with Remulla at the helm of the DOJ.
“All of this drama, I don't know what's going on, but it's a lot of drama. Ganun talaga ang batas. He is a person in authority. He is a man in uniform. He should know the rights of people and the law. And if the law is violated, he should know the consequences,” he said.
In the same press conference, Remulla said he could not confirm a report that Bantag’s deputy, Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, has supposedly died.
“I will not speculate. I have no news, I have no information. And I will not speculate,” he said.
“I had information a week ago, where he was, at least may nagsabi lang sa sources natin,” he added.
Instead, the justice chief said he believes both Bantag and Zulueta are still in the country.
The preliminary investigation on the Lapid/Villamor killings is set on Wednesday, Nov. 23 and Dec. 5.