NBI ANNIVERSARY. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Medardo De Lemos answer questions during the bureau's 86th-anniversary celebration on Wednesday (Nov. 9). Remulla revealed that the Cinderella Man story of Lapid could have triggered Bantag to order the broadcaster's assassination.  (PNA photo by Benjamin Pulta)

MANILA – Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla on Wednesday said the “Cinderella Man” story could have possibly pushed suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag to order the assassination of broadcast commentator Percival “Ka Percy Lapid” Mabasa.

Remulla made this revelation on the sidelines of the 86th anniversary of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) celebration as he gave details on how Lapid's story has purportedly upset Bantag.

He said Mabasa came to Bantag's property in Laguna, and documented it for the former's "Cinderella Man" story.

Remulla said Bantag was so upset after learning that Lapid will expose his alleged wealth, enough for the official to skip the September 9 graduation ceremonies of the University of Perpetual Help at NBP.

"Gumagawa siya ng storya, yung Cinderella man, yung kanyang video, iyon ‘yun eh. Lumabas si Cinderella man I think September 15. September 9 yun nung pumunta sa bahay niya para kumuha ng pictures, image. Tapos Sept. 17, nagsimula na yung plots, nagsimula na lahat, everything came into motion (Mabasa went there for his story, entitled Cinderella man. It was his (Mabasa) video. It came out September 15. It was on September 9 when Mabasa went to the house to take photos, images. Then, on September 17, the plot started, everything came into motion)," Remulla said.

Lapid’s “Cinderella Man” story came out last September, a few weeks before the broadcast journalist was shot and killed in Las Piñas City.

"Makikita nyo meron talagang (You can see that really), there's a string that ties everything together," Remulla added.

Meanwhile, Remulla believed that Bantag and BuCor Deputy Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta, who were recently charged with murder in relation to Lapid's assassination and the killing of Bilibid inmate Jun Villamor, are still in the country.

The department is seeking to file a hold departure order against the two BuCor officials.

"I would say so (they are still in the Philippines). Remember they are government officials hindi ka pwedeng umalis ng Pilipinas kapag wala kang (they cannot leave the Philippines without) travel authority unless they have secured passports which do not reflect their true professions," Remulla added.

Tracker teams readied

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police (PNP) is now readying tracker teams to arrest Bantag and Zulueta once an arrest warrant is issued against them.

"In the event that a warrant of arrest is issued, there will definitely be tracker teams to look for them. So far now, we are just monitoring. We are just validating information where they are," PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. told reporters on the sidelines of the blessing and turnover ceremony of the newly constructed PNP ACG building in Camp Crame on Wednesday.

Azurin said they will also launch a manhunt against the three other suspects in the killing of Mabasa who remain at large -- siblings Israel and Edmon Dimaculangan and a certain Orlando.

"Since the case has been filed, we have yet to wait for the determination of prima facie evidence by the Prosecutor's Office," the PNP chief said

The PNP has earlier offered security for Bantag after learning that his security details and his service vehicles were recalled.

Azurin said he already instructed the PNP's Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) to prepare in case Bantag would need police protection.

Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo admitted that they are not ruling out the possibility of other names appearing in the course of the investigation on the broadcaster's murder.

Bukas pa rin naman ang PNP kung saka-sakaling during the conduct of the preliminary investigation and sa actual trial at maisampa na officially sa korte itong kaso na ito at may lalabas pong ebidensiya pa na magtuturo sa iba pang tao na may kinalaman sa dalawang kaso na ito ay maaari naman po tayong magsampa ng supplemental complaint (The PNP is still open if ever during the conduct of the preliminary investigation and the actual trial and the case is officially charged in the courts. If evidence comes out that points to other people involved in the two cases, we can file a supplemental complaint),” Fajardo said in a television interview.

Fajardo's remarks came after Percy's brother and veteran journalist Roy Mabasa said his family wonders if former President Rodrigo Duterte is among the 160 persons of interest being considered by the PNP in its investigation.

Senator Ronald dela Rosa, an ally of Duterte, earlier said that he finds it illogical that the former president would have any motive for having Lapid killed since he is already a private citizen.

The Southern Police District (SPD) has earlier said Duterte is not among the persons of interest in the case.

These persons of interest include politicians, military, and police officials who were previously criticized by Lapid in his radio program.(PNA)