Philippine prison warden charged with ordering murder of journalist

Philippine prison warden charged with ordering murder of journalist


Philippine police on Monday accused the country’s prison chief of ordering the killing of a prominent radio journalist whose death sparked international concern.

Radio personality Percival Mabasa, 63, who went by the name “Percy Lapid” on his program, was shot dead in a Manila suburb on October 3 while driving to his studio.

Police have filed a murder complaint against Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag, who is currently suspended, and his Deputy Security Officer, Ricardo Zulueta.

Alleged gunman Joel Escorial turned himself in to authorities last month, fearing for his safety, after police transferred his face from security footage, officials previously said

“He (Bantag) will probably be the most senior official in this country ever to be charged with a case of this seriousness,” Justice Minister Crispin Remulla said.

Bantag allegedly ordered the killing of Mabasa after the latter “continued to expose the issues against the former on his show,” Eugene Javier of the National Bureau of Investigation told reporters, reading from a statement.

Bantag and Zulueta were also accused of ordering the killing of Cristito Villamor Palana, one of the prison inmates who allegedly gave the order to kill to Escorial.

Escorial had identified Palana to the police.

Javier said Palana was smothered with a plastic bag by members of his own gang.

Criminal charges were also filed against 10 inmates.

Prosecutors at the Justice Department are deciding whether there is enough evidence to bring charges in court.

– outspoken critic –

Mabasa was an outspoken critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte and of the policies and staff of his successor, Ferdinand Marcos.

He had also criticized “red-tagging” – accusing someone of being a communist sympathizer – as well as online gambling operations and misinformation about martial law.

He was the second journalist killed since Marcos took office on June 30.

While the Philippines is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, such killings rarely occur in Manila.

Javier said the investigation into the killings revealed “the institutionalization of a criminal organization within the government”.

“This will be the reason for many reforms in the government and strengthening of the current mechanisms to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again,” he said, describing it as a “war on impunity”.

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