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DOJ to seek HDO vs. Bantag, Zulueta; PNP offers Bantag security

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking to file a hold departure order against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and BuCor official Ricardo Zulueta in connection with the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid.

Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Tuesday said an immigration lookout bulletin order is no longer needed. He previously said a lookout bulletin will be issued for Bantag and Senior Superintendent Zulueta.

“Actually, there’s no need because they’re public officials. They cannot leave the country without a travel authority,” Remulla said in an ambush interview.

"Ang mas mahalaga lang talaga dito we are already filing a hold departure order. I already instructed the staff to start,” he added.

On Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed murder complaints against Bantag, Zulueta, and other persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) in relation to the killing of Lapid.

PNP offers security

The PNP on Tuesday said it has already communicated with Bantag.

“Meron na pong communication sa part po ng PNP kay General Bantag (On the part of the PNP, we already communicated with Bantag),” PNP spokesperson Colonel Jean Fajardo said in an interview on GTV’s Balitanghali.

Fajardo added that PNP chief Police General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. through a Police Region Office director offered security to Bantag considering that his security details had been pulled out.

“In fact, we offered him  security kung kinakailangan po niya dahil nabanggit po niya sa kanyang recent interview na pinull out na po 'yung kanyang security at mga sasakyan,” she said.

(In fact, we offered him security if he needs them because he mentioned earlier in his recent interview that his security and vehicles have been pulled out.)

Fajardo said authorities are calling on Bantag to face the murder complaints filed against him.

Ask when the manhunt against Bantag would start, Fajardo said legal procedures should be followed.

According to Fajardo, the DOJ is expected to issue a subpoena against Bantag and other respondents. Concerned suspects have up to 10 days to respond with a counter affidavit, she added.

The DOJ may conduct a clarificatory hearing. Then the DOJ is expected to issue a resolution whether there is a probable cause to the complaints.

The complaints will then be raffled off to a court that is expected to issue a warrant of arrest against the respondents, Fajardo said.

NBI supervising agent Atty. Eugene Javier said two murder charges were filed for the deaths of Lapid and of alleged middleman Jun Villamor, a person deprived of liberty (PDL) inside the New Bilibid Prison.

Aside from Bantag, also named respondents in the complaint were Zulueta, and PDLs Denver Batungbakal Mayores, Alvin Cornista Labra, Aldrin Micosa Galicia, and Alfie Peñaredonda. Bantag and Zulueta were named principals by inducement while the others were principals by indispensable cooperation.

The charge in connection with Villamor's death, meanwhile, was filed against Bantag and Zulueta as principals by inducement, and PDLs Labra, Micosa, Mario Germones Alvarez, and Joseph Medel Georfo as principals by indispensable cooperation.

Christam Ramac, Ricky Lamigo Salgado, Ronnie Pabustan Dela Cruz, and Joel Alog Reyes — all PDLs — were charged as principals by direct participation.

Malacañang on Monday expressed hope that justice would be served for the family of Lapid following the filing of murder complaints against Bantag and others.

Remulla on Tuesday said he believes that there are no more individuals behind the alleged masterminds of the killing of Lapid.

The NBI however is still considering the possibility that there may be a more powerful mastermind than Bantag, Javier said.

Lapid, a hard-hitting radio commentator, was shot dead in Las Piñas City, on October 3. —KG, GMA Integrated News