The alleged gunman in the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid has surrendered to the police, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benhur Abalos said on Tuesday.
"Ngayong umagang 'to, gusto ko lang i-kumpirma na nasa kustodiya na ng PNP itong suspek na ang pangalan ay Joel Estorial. Siya ay of course taga-Quezon City,” Abalos said at a press conference.
“Ang initial report ay siya ay sumurrender out of fear for personal safety dahil natakot siya sa kanyang safety niya dahil pagkatapos ilabas sa publiko ang kanyang mukha,” he added.
(This morning I would like to confirm that the suspect, Joel Estorial, is already in PNP custody. He is from Quezon City. The initial report said he surrendered because he was fearing for his life after his picture was released to the public.)
Estorial surrendered to authorities on Monday, according to Southern Police District (SPD) director Police Brigadier General Kirby Kraft.
Lapid, whose real name is Percival Mabasa and host of online broadcast program "Percy Lapid Fire" at DWBL 1242 and columnist for Hataw, was shot dead by two men while on his way home in Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City, on October 3.
A P6.5-million reward has been offered in exchange for information that would lead to the arrest of the persons behind the killing of Lapid.
Order from Bilibid
Estorial, who was presented during the briefing, identified his companions as siblings Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and a certain Orlando or Orly. He said he doesn't know Orlando’s surname.
The Dimaculangan siblings, who are from Las Piñas City, and Orlando are still at large. Abalos presented photos of the three.
Estorial said the order to kill Lapid came from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and someone from the national penitentiary also contacted them to execute the killing.
“Galing po sa loob… sa Bilibid po [The order came from inside Bilibid],” he said when asked by Abalos where the order came from.
In a separate press conference, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla vowed to unmask the person who gave the order to kill Lapid.
“I actually have no knowledge yet ng kanyang sinasabi. I want to be briefed about it, and I will ask Secretary Abalos to brief me later. Sa loob ng Bilibid kung sino man ‘yan dapat malaman natin. Ilalabas natin ‘yan,” he said.
(I actually have no knowledge yet. I want to be briefed about it. I will ask Secretary Abalos to brief me later. We will find out who gave the order inside Bilibid. We will release that information.)
Remulla also said there is a need to look into the situation at the national penitentiary to determine possible irregularities.
“Generations and generations of people under the guards of Bilibid feel an entitlement to the positions that they occupy. And that the temptation there is so great that it’s so hard to check on these people,” he said.
The Justice secretary said he received reports that telephones are being sold within the NBP for P300,000 to P500,000.
“We have a big problem in Bilibid and that’s why we have to reform our prison system. Not only the transfer of maximum security but the regionalization of prisons is now on the table,” he said.
Estorial, meanwhile, confessed to being the one who shot Lapid.
“Ang usapan namin doon, kung sino ang matapat doon sa Percy, siya ang babaril. Nagkataon po na natapat sa akin. Sabi naman po kapag di ko binaril ako po ang papatayin kaya binaril ko na po si Percy,” he said.
(We agreed that whoever's nearest to Percy would be the one to shoot him. It turned out it was me. I was told that if I did not shoot Percy, I will be killed. So I shot Percy.)
Abalos said Estorial already gave an extrajudicial confession. He also dismissed possible speculations that Estorial is just a fall guy.
According to Abalos, Estorial’s gun and a slug found in the crime scene matched in a ballistic examination. Aside from this, the clothes the gunman was wearing in a CCTV footage was also recovered from him although it was already cut into pieces.
Estorial, meanwhile, apologized to Lapid’s family and said that it was not his intention to kill the journalist.
“Sana po mapatawad po ako nila. Hindi ko naman kagustuhan 'yun [I hope they would forgive me. I did not want this to happen]," he said.
The police prohibited the press from further asking questions to Estorial, saying that a follow-up operation is still ongoing.
More arrests soon?
Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Tuesday said it expects Estorial's statement to lead to the identification, arrest, and prosecution of whoever ordered and paid for Lapid’s killing.
“Accountability in this case will help chip away at the culture of impunity around journalist killings that media, civil society and government agencies have been working to change,” it said in a statement.
“We join the Mabasa family, Ka Percy's listeners and supporters, and the journalism community in monitoring developments in the case and in waiting for justice for his death.”
Speaker Martin Romualdez, for his part, lauded the DILG for the development in the Lapid case.
“We in the House of Representatives welcome this positive development in the unfortunate crime that took the life of Percy Lapid. We applaud the efforts of SILG Abalos and the police to swiftly resolve the case,” Romualdez said.
He said with the gunman now in government custody, they are hoping that other suspects would also be apprehended soon.
The House of Representatives earlier raised P5 million as a reward for any information that will lead to the arrest of the perpetrators of the crime against Lapid.
The amount was sourced out of personal funds of House members. —with Joahna Lei Casilao and Llanesca T. Panti/KBK, GMA News