The Department of Justice (DOJ) has denied suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag’s motion for inhibition against the panel of the DOJ on its preliminary investigation on the Percy Lapid slay case.
According to Isa Avendaño-Umali’s report on Super Radyo dzBB, this was confirmed by Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento.
Based on the decision, the DOJ denied Bantag’s motion for lack of merit.
Due to the dismissal of the motion, the next hearing is set on January 24, Tuesday at 3 p.m. The respondents in the case are expected to submit their counter-affidavits.
JUST IN: Motion for inhibition ni suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director general Gerald Bantag sa Percy Lapid case, ibinasura ng Department of Justice (DOJ). | via @Isa_Umali pic.twitter.com/be66cLUJFn— DZBB Super Radyo (@dzbb) January 18, 2023
Bantag is facing two complaints of murder and was pointed to by authorities as one of the masterminds behind the killing of Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.
Lapid was shot dead on his way home in Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas City, on October 3 while Villamor died at the New Bilibid Prison.
An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun showed the remains of Villamor to have a “history of asphyxia by plastic bag suffocation.”
In his motion, Bantag claimed that Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, who he said is at serious and open odds with him, has direct control and supervision of the investigating panel. Because of this, he argued that his independent and impartial tribunal is violated.
Further, he also argued that the DOJ has no jurisdiction over the case and that it should fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ombudsman.
In the 17-page order, however, the prosecutors said the authority of the Ombudsman to prosecute cases involving public officers and employees before the regular courts do not conflict with the power of regular prosecutors under the DOJ.
According to the order, the DOJ and the Ombudsman entered into a memorandum of agreement in 2012 clarifying the jurisdiction in the conduct of the preliminary investigation and inquest proceedings for public officials.
"While respondent Bantag is a public official who occupies a position with a pay grade higher than salary grade 27, these cases against him do not fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan as these cases are for… murder," it said.
The DOJ said that for the Ombudsman to have exclusive jurisdiction, the offenses charged must be related to Bantag’s office, the BuCor.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors said that Bantag's allegations of bias and partiality are "purely speculative" as the control and supervision of Remulla over the National Prosecution Service does not extend to preliminary investigations.
"Meanwhile, with respect to the SOJ's (Secretary of Justice) statements to the media, the same is inevitable considering that the BuCor is a constituent agency under the DOJ," the DOJ said.
Due to this, the panel said there is no room for inhibition in the cases.
"There is no violation of respondent Bantag’s right to due process to be heard by an independent and impartial tribunal, as the Panel remains, and will continue to remain, independent and impartial in hearing these cases, more importantly in their resolution," it said. — RSJ/KBK, GMA Integrated News