MANILA (AFP) – Philippine police accused the country’s prisons chief yesterday of ordering the killing of a prominent radio journalist whose death sparked international alarm.
Radio personality Percival Mabasa, 63, who went by the name “Percy Lapid” on his programme, was shot dead in a Manila suburb on October 3 as he drove to his studio.
Police allege Bureau of Corrections director general Gerald Bantag, who is currently suspended from duty, was behind the murder along with his deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta.
The alleged gunman, Joel Escorial, surrendered to authorities last month out of fear for his safety after police broadcast images of his face captured on security footage, officials said previously.
“He (Bantag) will probably be the highest official of this land ever charged with a case of this gravity,” Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla said.
Then-president Rodrigo Duterte appointed Bantag as director general of the Bureau of Corrections in September 2019.
Bantag allegedly ordered the murder of Mabasa following the “continued expose by the latter of the issues against the former on his show”, Eugene Javier of the National Bureau of Investigation told reporters, reading from a statement.
Weeks before he was gunned down, Mabasa aired allegations of corruption against Bantag on his late-night radio show.
Bantag told DZRH broadcaster last month that he had nothing to do with the killing.
Bantag and Zulueta have also been accused of ordering the killing of Cristito Villamor Palana, a prison inmate who allegedly passed on the kill order to the gunman.
Palana was suffocated with a plastic bag by members of his own gang, Javier said.