DOJ eyes contempt raps vs. vloggers over Bantag interview

By Benjamin Pulta

October 2, 2023, 7:12 pm

<p>Former BuCor chief Gerald Bantag <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Former BuCor chief Gerald Bantag (File photo)

MANILA – Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Monday said contempt charges await three vloggers (video bloggers) who published online an interview with fugitive former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag who is wanted for murder in connection with the killing of veteran broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.

“Siya (Bantag) po ay na interview ng mga ilang vloggers at ngayon po ay aming pinaghahandaan ng complaint ang mga vlogger na nag interview sa kanya for contempt of court. Kase bawal po yan (He was interviewed by bloggers and we are readying complaints against these bloggers who interviewed him for contempt of court. That is not allowed)," Remulla said in a press briefing at the Department of Justice (DOJ) main office in Manila.

He said the act of these vloggers undermines the courts and the legal processes.

The DOJ chief, meanwhile, said law enforcers are validating leads on Bantag's current whereabouts as well as several John Does.

Bantag and former BuCor deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta are facing murder charges before the Muntinlupa and Las Piñas regional trial courts over last year’s killing of Mabasa and Cristito Villamor Palaña (alias Jun Villamor), an inmate at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Mabasa was shot by armed men near his home in Las Piñas City on Oct. 3, 2022.

Self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial faced the media on Oct. 18, 2022 to admit his role in the killing. On the same day, Villamor died of “unknown causes” at the NBP Hospital.

Villamor allegedly hired Escorial to kill Mabasa. He later died, or was allegedly killed on Bantag’s order coursed through Zulueta.

Last month, the National Bureau of Investigation filed new murder charges against Bantag, Zulueta, another former BuCor official Victor Erick Pascua, and PDLs Rolando Villaver, Mark Angelo Lampera, Charlie Dacuyan and Wendell Sualog for the death of another NBP inmate Hegel Samson.

Samson supposedly earned Bantag's ire for social media posts made under the pseudonym "Leon Bilibid" about the supposed proliferation of illegal drugs at the national penitentiary.

Villaver claimed that "Bantag asked him about a certain individual using the profile name" and who exposed the alleged smuggling of contraband items, including alcohol, cigarettes, illegal drugs, mobile phones and guns.

Samson was later identified as being under Villaver, who was the “mayor” of Dorm 6A of NBP.

Villaver claimed he was ordered by Bantag, Zulueta and Pascua "to carry out the task discreetly, leaving no trace."

Samson died at the NBP Hospital on Nov. 7, 2020, due to heart attack hastened by asphyxia as cause of death.

Villaver and the other inmates subsequently owned up to the killing, which they said they committed by placing a plastic bag around the victim’s head. (PNA)