MANILA — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said the mistake in the middle name of suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag in his subpoena would not affect the murder complaints against him and several other respondents.
“It’s not a fatal mistake,” he told reporters on the sidelines of an activity at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) on Thursday.
During Wednesday’s preliminary investigation into the killings of radio commentator Percy Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor, Bantag’s lawyer, Rocky Tomas Balisong, pointed out that the subpoena he himself received on Monday bore the wrong middle name of his client. It indicated “Soriano”, instead of “Quitaleg.”
He claimed this is fatal since it could refer to another person.
Senior assistant state prosecutor Charlie Guhit, part of the 3-member prosecution panel, said the error would not affect the case especially because Balisong has received a new subpoena.
Remulla agreed with his prosecutors.
“I’m looking at the case right now… It was not a grievous error,” he said.
The justice chief said he has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to reach out to the family of Bantag’s former deputy and alleged fellow-mastermind, Supt. Ricardo Zulueta, whose whereabouts are still unknown.
Zulueta, who allegedly gave instructions to gang leaders inside Bilibid to kill Lapid and Villamor, was not present and was not represented in Wednesday’s hearing.
The next setting is scheduled on Dec. 5, where the NBI is expected to submit additional evidence.
The Justice chief said authorities continue to exert efforts to build the case.
“Case build-up is ongoing even if the case is filed already. Alam n'yo, these are not simple cases. These are very novel cases in terms of the way the case was solved and the way that the evidence came into being. Kaya dapat d'yan, non-stop talaga ang trabaho,” he said.
(That is why the work should be non-stop.)
Wednesday’s probe was off-limits to the media.
Remulla said he was not inclined to allow media coverage.
“May privacy rights pa tayo kasi may presumption of innocence. 'Pag ginawa natin 'yan, para tayong nagko-condemn ng tao kaagad. We don’t really want to make a spectacle of that proceeding,” he said.
(There are privacy rights due to presumption of innocence. If we do that, it's like we are condemning someone immediately.)
The media was previously allowed to attend, even shoot videos, and report on preliminary investigations conducted at the justice department. This setup changed with the appointment of the new prosecutor general under the Duterte administration and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.