Editorial: Search for justice

Editorial: Search for justice

One could not help but wonder when it was known that the alleged middleman (later identified as Bilibid detainee Cristito “Jun” Villamor) in the Percy Lapid murder died on Oct. 18, 2022, the same day that Joel Escorial, the self-confessed gunman in the killing of the broadcaster, surrendered to the police and identified Villamor as the person who had contacted him to terminate Lapid.

Not everyone believed it was a coincidence.

The middleman’s death happened under the watch of now-suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag.

It was first reported that Villamor’s body “bore no apparent sign of external injury,” meaning the detainee was not killed; however, the second autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun shows that the alleged middleman’s death was a homicide. Authorities announced Monday, Nov. 7, 2022, that they have named Bantag as one of the respondents in the murders of Lapid and Villamor.

Bantag has denied during a radio interview his involvement in Lapid’s murder, saying he had nothing to gain in killing the commentator who had criticized him for his alleged lavish lifestyle.

Investigators’ findings showed otherwise. They have collected evidence that said Bantag had the motive to order the murders of Lapid and Villamor.

Officials said their investigation revealed “the unfortunate transformation of a pillar of justice – the correction pillar – into a deep, large-scale and systematic criminal organization.” They said Villamor’s murder “will be the cause of many reforms in government and the strengthening of current mechanisms to ensure that nothing of this nature will happen again.”

One can only hope that the reforms would not become mere lip service but a reality in a penal system that has been buried in shady activities for years.

The filing of charges against the respondents is not yet the closure of the murder cases.

If the complaints could pass the evidentiary requirements at the prosecutor’s level, the Department of Justice will face another hurdle—the trial.

Prosecutors must make sure that they have an airtight case that can convince the judge.

The filing of cases happened in just over a month after Lapid’s murder. Even so, the search for justice could take years.

Apart from Lapid’s and Villamor’s murders, the government must also solve other killings of journalists and ordinary Filipinos. They also deserve justice in a land where laws must still reign supreme, not the murderers.


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