Self-confessed gunman in Percy Lapid slay case gets up to 16 years


A Las Piñas court has sentenced self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial up to 16 years of imprisonment for the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid.

In a 3-page order, the Las Piñas Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 254 sentenced Escorial from eight years and eight months to 16 years.

Escorial was initially charged with murder. The court found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt as accomplice to the crime of murder after he entered a plea bargain.

“Subsequently, when re-arraigned and after reading to him the information in Tagalog… accused Joel Escorial y Salve entered a plea of guilty as an accomplice to the crime of murder,” it said.

In August 2023, Escorial asked the court to allow him to enter into plea bargaining to the lesser offense of homicide from murder. 

According to Pelagio, there was no written order yet on the conviction. He said, however, that the conviction would no longer change.

“Hindi na-downgrade from murder to homicide pero nag-plea bargain as accomplice (it was not downgraded from murder to homicide but he made a plea bargain as accomplice),” Atty. Danny Pelagio, the legal counsel of the Mabasa family, said.

Meanwhile, the RTC said that Escorial will remain detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center until further orders.

According to Pelagio, there was no written order yet on the conviction. He said, however, that the conviction would no longer change.

"Nag-set na ng conditions ang prosecution na tinanggap na ni Escorial. Nag-pose na rin ng clarificatory and confirmatory questions si judge. Nasa official transcript na mga yan ng court," he said.

(The prosecution has set conditions which were accepted by Escorial. The judge also posed clarificatory and confirmatory questions. It's already part of the official transcript of the court.)


For his part, Roy Mabasa, the brother of the slain broadcaster, said they would not rest until all those responsible are imprisoned.

“We entrust it to God in honor of the slain journalist, but our pursuit of justice won't cease until all the masterminds are behind bars,” he said.

Pelagio said the next hearing will be on June 24.

Lapid, real name Percy Mabasa, was shot dead in Las Piñas City on October 3, 2022.

In April 2023, the court issued arrest warrants against former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and former BuCor deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta, who are said to be the masterminds in the killing.

Last month, agents from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) raided the suspected hideouts of Bantag in Laguna and Caloocan City to serve the arrest warrant against him, but they failed to find him.

Zulueta, meanwhile, passed away on March 15 due to heart failure.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) previously said a cash reward of P2 million will be given for information on the whereabouts of Bantag while P1 million would have been given for Zulueta.

The two were also charged for the death of alleged middleman Jun Villamor. An autopsy by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun showed the remains of Villamor to have a “history of asphyxia by plastic bag suffocation.”  —KBK/RSJ, GMA Integrated News