Percy Lapid’s killer gets 16-year sentence
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Percy Lapid’s killer gets 16-year sentence

May 14, 2024, 8:44 AM
OpinYon News Team

OpinYon News Team

News Reporter

Solution and retribution in the celebrated case of Percy Lapid are beginning to unravel.

The gunman in the Oct. 3, 2022 murder of columnist Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa was sentenced on Monday to a maximum of 16 years in prison, the fifth among several persons found guilty.

Mabasa’s family said their quest for justice will continue, since the mastermind or masterminds of the crime are jailed.

“[Our] pursuit of justice won’t cease until all the masterminds are behind bars,” the victim’s brother, journalist Roy Mabasa, said.

Joel Escorial was convicted of homicide after he entered into a plea bargain that allowed him to plead guilty to a lesser offense in exchange for disclosing information about the murder, according to Atty. Danilo Pelagio.

Judge Harold Cesar Huliganga of the Las Piñas City Regional Trial Court Branch 254 handed down the decision imposing on Escorial the penalty of reclusion temporal, whose minimum term is eight years and eight months of imprisonment, with a maximum of 16 years.

According to Pelagio, Escorial had entered a guilty plea “as an accomplice” to the assassination allegedly plotted by the principals, including dismissed Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag, who remains in hiding since being charged with the double murder of Mabasa and prisoner Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña, one of the alleged “middlemen.”

Palaña was found dead inside New Bilibid Prison on Oct. 18, 2022, after Escorial had turned himself in to the authorities and confessed to killing Mabasa.

At a press conference, Escorial implicated a number of people, including a Bilibid inmate later identified as Palaña, who allegedly served as an intermediary in a purported P550,000 contract to kill the radio journalist.

When Palaña’s body was discovered shortly after Escorial’s confession, prison authorities, led at the time by Bantag, claimed that the inmate had died of natural causes.

But an independent autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun showed that Palaña might have died of suffocation from a plastic bag placed over his head. Based on Fortun’s findings, the body had borne signs of asphyxia, pulmonary congestion, edema and hemorrhage.

Another alleged mastermind, Bantag’s former deputy, Jail Senior Supt. Ricardo Zulueta, had also evaded arrest for the double murder case, but he died in a hospital in Dinalupihan town, Bataan province, on March 15.

The Philippine National Police ruled out foul play in Zulueta’s death, the cause of which was reported to be cerebrovascular disease intracranial hemorrhage or bleeding in the head, although an earlier police report stated heart failure.

Roy said the prosecution requested DNA testing of Zulueta to ascertain his identity.

In March 2023, a Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors indicted several persons in the Mabasa and Palaña killings, including Bantag and Zulueta, who were charged with murder on two counts.

They were named “principals by inducement.”

The DOJ said that on the part of Bantag, there was “sufficient circumstantial evidence” to establish that he masterminded the assassination.

Escorial was not the first to be convicted in the case.

In June 2023, three Bilibid gang leaders, Aldrin Galicia, Alvin Labra and Alfie Peñaredonda, were found guilty as accessories in Mabasa’s murder and sentenced to a maximum of eight years in prison. In December, Denver Mayores received a similar sentence as another accessory to the crime.

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