EDITORIAL: OVER A CUP OF TEA

Killing of Journalist collateral damage in response to Duterte’s
Drug War?(Parts 3-4)





PART 3
Editor’s note: It is interesting to note that the focus of Philippine government accusation (thru the Dept. Of Justice) on the killing of journalist Percy Lapid is the suspended head of the Bureau of Corrections, Director-General Gerald Bantag, never the drug syndicate inside the prison system that wanted him eliminated. The connection between the gunman, the middleman, and their employer, German Agojo (the last two in prison for drug offense and murder of the judge that convicted Agojo) seems to have been ignored at this point. If the goal is simply to arrest and charge someone in relation to a journalist’s killing, then the goal will be reached easily with Bantag’s conviction. It would be unthinkable to consider Percy’s killing as just a “collateral damage” to oust Bantag, the druglords’ nemesis in Muntinlupa National Penitentiary. It would be a disgrace to speak against a dead broadcaster’s “revelation of corruption” despite lack of strong evidence of proof. It would be scary to charge the police of forcing the gunman to point to Bantag (in exchange for drug wealth) … but recent drug busts in the Philippines amounting to billions of pesos involved police officers, including a decorated police “drug buster”! It is indeed difficult to trust anyone in law enforcement when millions of money are used to entice them.
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General Bantag and his deputy have been charged as the masterminds for the killing of Percy and Villamor (the middleman inside the Muntinlupa penitentiary). It seems the “evidence” solely accepted as truth was the chorus of inmates (in the Maximum Security prison) that participated in the killing of Villamor that it was Bantag, through his deputy, who ordered the killing. The same inmates even talked about “raising funds inside the prison per direction of Bantag” in order to pay the gunman who killed Percy Php550,000. What? Is it credible to order people inside the penitentiary to kill someone and ask them to pay the assassin themselves? Keep in mind that this prison system has been notorious for the country’s monstrous drug activities and that it was Bantag who put a stop to such criminal activities, including high-stake gambling, prostitution, and drug dealing. Would Bantag seek the help of inmates who hate him in the first place?

For the information of my readers, Gen. Gerald Bantag is from Baguio City, belonging to the Ibaloi tribe, and his records clearly show that Bantag has been a tough fighter in former President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. His famous anecdote was when a group of drug dealers went to his office and hurled a grenade to kill him. Bantag immediately grabbed the grenade and hurled it back to the group, killing 10 of them. I am eagerly waiting for what will happen next. As of this writing, Bantag has been subpoenaed and preliminary hearings were set Nov. 23 and Dec. 5 to determine probable cause. The Nov. 23 hearing was postponed due to to the wrong middlename of Bantag in the subpoena. It was clearly a delaying tactic by DOJ to give them more time to dig more credible proofs.

Bantag has announced that should a warrant of arrest against him be issued soon, he will not surrender unless his boss, the Dept. Of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, resigns from his post. Bantag has accused Remulla of closing his eyes in regard to the involvement of the druglord German Agojo (who masterminded the killing of Judge Voltaire Rosales despite being in jail using the late Villamor and Escorial) and is now under the Witness Protection Program. Bantag repeatedly asked: “Will I use inmates who hated me so much to kill Percy whose blog against me was nothing?” Bantag also charged Remulla of being a liar and accused him of being part of narco-politics considering his recent actions of releasing three drug lords via the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ.

Remulla refuses to step down from his post, of course. He has to be there to protect his son in jail I guess. And, according to influential bloggers, many of whom are Bantag supporters, Remulla must know the truth and the truth would unfortunately reveal that the killing of Percy Lapid was just meant to oust Bantag, imprison him, and when Bantag is already inside, the druglords will have the biggest fiesta ever.

I am sorry that Percy Lapid was killed, not because he was exposing influential people for their perceived/reported wrongdoing. Percy was killed because druglords wanted Bantag jailed so they can get their revenge unfortunately, Percy’s killing was the easiest way, they thought, to ensure Bantag’s conviction, through the help of a justice secretary whose connection to moneyed PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) is now being questioned by many Filipino bloggers due to his actions.
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PART 4

Background (From Part 3): On Nov. 11, General Gerald Bantag went online at youtube’s channel of Rev. Pastor Apollo Quiboloy to clear his name and refute the charges being hurled at him (as mastermind in the killing of Percy Lapid) by the Department of Justice led by Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, his boss. Bantag strongly accused Remulla of being a druglords’ protector, a narco-politician, who recently released two druglords (whom he named) and placed them under Witness Protection Program. He likewise revealed that German Luna Agojo, the druglord who ordered the killing of Judge Voltaire Rosales (the judge who convicted Agojo and sentenced him to life imprisonment) was likewise recently placed under Witness Protection Program and whose papers for his release were prepared by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). The question is: Why would drug lords convicted of high crimes merit to be released under the Witness Protection Program? More importantly: Where is Agojo? Was it him who arranged to kill Lapid in order to take revenge against Bantag, the enemy of druglords in jail? At whose orders and why?

Last October, Remulla’s eldest son, Juanito Jose, was arrested by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) for importing cannabis (marijuana) amounting to more than a million pesos. PDEA’s head was sacked a few days after and replaced by a new appointee (of the new administration). Bantag posed the question on the possible existence of a “middleman” and a “mastermind” as well. Bantag called for the resignation of Remulla, saying that Remulla has lost his credibility and moral ascendancy to his position as Justice Secretary. He said Remulla wanted a great media exposure in preparation for his senate ambition a few years from now…at his expense. DOJ Secretary Remulla has openly accused of Bantag and his deputy as the suspected masterminds in Percy Lapid’s and Villamor’s killing, and asked Pres. Bongbong Marcos to fire Bantag as Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) head. Meanwhile, BuCor OIC Gen. Catapang continues to dig (and “plant” according to some bloggers) more “evidences” to charge Bantag for various offenses at the Ombudsman, with the goal of putting Bantag to jail as a government official and permanently remove Bantag as BuCor’s director-general.
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On December 5th, everyone was surprised when General Gerald Bantag and his team of lawyers showed up at the Department of Justice in Manila, not to file their counter affidavit in response to the original subpoena re the double murder case of Lapid and Villamor, but to file a motion for DOJ to inhibit itself from conducting preliminary investigation on the ground that the Secretary of Justice himself is not impartial and acts as if he is the accuser, the investigator, and the judge rolled into one. Bantag’s lawyer wants the Ombudsman to handle Bantag’s case, considering that Bantag is a high-ranking government official, and cited a previous Supreme Court decision relevant to this case. The investigative party (Prosecution Panel) has seven days to answer Bantag’s motion for inhibition. Unfortunately, the latest news is that DOJ Secretary Remulla will not agree to inhibit his department from prosecuting Bantag. DOJ likewise claims they have an agreement with the Ombudsman that criminal cases will be handled by DOJ, while the Ombudsman will focus on graft and corruption cases.


Meanwhile, on December 9, Baguio City was teeming with people from many parts of the country and the world, thousands of whom came from various provinces of the Cordillera Region, for a prayer-rally on behalf of General Bantag. The colorful parade was led by Gen. Bantag himself and many of his supporters on horseback. There were traditional dances performed by tribal participants complete with their native costumes, as well as speeches of many leaders and supporters present. The organizers, especially those belonging to ILABAN (Igorot Lawyers for Bantag) announced that the event was voluntarily organized by them without Bantag’s active involvement except his presence on the day of the rally. They strongly expressed their belief that this event is a call for Justice, not only for Gen. Bantag, but also for others facing similar unjust treatment by the justice system.

It is interesting to note that it is the social media that has been very active covering Bantag’s case, with a number of bloggers even doing research work to uncover hidden facts whether or not possibly ignored by DOJ’s NBI and the National Police. The mainstream media is generally silent on the matter or touches just the surface of this case, which to me, is highly incredible in these modern times in a democracy.


A friend of mine told me that money matters anywhere (which I already know!). Money can silent accusers or even surrendered suspects. Could money be the reason why Percy Lapid’s family seems to ignore other possible suspects (like anyone in the government attacked fiercely by Percy in his program)? Indeed, that’s why I salute Gen. Bantag for refusing to accept the hundred-million pesos of welcome gift by druglords in prison when he was appointed Bureau of Corrections chief by former President Rodrigo Duterte.


I am intrigued by the revelation of J. Escorial, Percy Lapid’s assassin, that the main reason he and his “friends” in prison agreed to accept the “job” was to gain freedom as “promised” his imprisoned friends. Freedom? As in release from prison? German Luna Agojo, the druglord who ordered the killing of Judge Voltaire Rosales (who sentenced him to life) was freed (despite the Supreme Court decision affirming his sentence in 2009) via the Witness Protection Program of the DOJ. Who then has the authority to release a convict and give him complete freedom? Your guess is as good as mine.


I will continue to follow Gen. Bantag’s journey (as he faces this miserable trial of his life and career). I hope and pray that the Lord above will help him find justice and clear his name in the end. Unfortunately, at present, the new administration of Pres. Bongbong Marcos has lost a good man, a fighter against illegal drugs and criminality that have ruled the Philippines’ National Penitentiary for a long time since druglords took over the place and were left unharmed due to their money and political influence. With Bantag (and Duterte) out, freedom inside the Bilibid prison surely makes its residents shout with joy.