AT-LARGE. Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. shows photos of the other suspects in the killing of broadcaster Percival Mabasa during a press conference in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Tuesday (Oct. 18, 2022). Self-confessed gunman Joel Estorial named his cohorts as brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan and a certain Orly. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA – Government investigators will get to the bottom of allegations that people from inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) ordered the assassination of broadcaster Percival Mabasa, also known as Percy Lapid.

Department of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a press conference on Tuesday that they will “protect the witness to the fullest possible extent.”

“We’ll find out sino, basta malaman natin kung sino. Malalim ‘yan (We will soon find out who ordered the hit. It is deep).,” Remulla said.

He has tasked Gerald Bantag, Director General of the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) which runs the NBP, to act on the information.

Self-confessed gunman Joel Estorial, 38, has surrendered to authorities out of fear for his safety after his photo was released and a PHP6.5-million bounty for his arrest was put up

He confessed his part in the October 3 killing at BF Resort Village in Las Piñas City, saying he and his cohorts, brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, and a certain Orly, were offered P550,000 to kill Mabasa.

He claimed the order came from someone inside the NBP but did not give the motive for the attack.

During a press conference at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Tuesday morning, Estorial narrated that he was with Orly, a resident of Batangas, during the incident while the Dimaculangan brothers were on another motorcycle.

Kasi ‘yung usapan, kung sino ang matapat doon kay Percy po, siya ang babaril. Eh nagkataon natapat sa akin. Sabi naman po kapag hindi ko binaril, ako ang papatayin kaya binaril ko na po si Percy (What was discussed was whoever was nearest to Percy will shoot him. It just so happened that he was nearer us. If I will not shoot him, they will kill me, so I shot Percy),” Estorial said.

Remulla said the development underscores the need for full reforms inside NBP.

"Ang problema sa Bilibid talaga, kelangan i-uproot na natin talaga (The problems in Bilibid really need to be uprooted) kasi (because) generations and generations of people, the guards of Bilibid feel an entitlement to the positions that they occupy and that the temptation there is so great that it is so hard to check on these people," he said.

Remulla said inmates are being sold mobile phones for PHP300,000 to PHP500,000 and “jumper” lines for electric connection.

"We have to reform our prison system, not only the transfer of maximum security [cells] but the regionalization of prisons. I've been discussing this within the department, with the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), for the past three months the designs of the prisons and financial modeling of the regionalized prisons," he added. (PNA)