THE Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are reported to be collaborating with each other in conducting a comprehensive investigation into the killing of radio commentator Percival Mabasa, aka Percy Lapid, who was gunned down on October 3, 2022 in Barangay Talon Dos, Las Piñas while he was driving home.
In the latest media report there are now 160 persons identified by the authorities as so called “persons of interest” or possible suspects in the slaying. PNP chief General Rodolfo Azurin Jr. also came out with the statement that the persons of interest already identified include some politicians as well as police and military personalities.
Those are a lot of suspects and it might take forever to determine and identify who the mastermind is in the gruesome killing of Mabasa. The investigation by the authorities is further made difficult with the death of one of the middlemen, Bilibid inmate Jun Globa Villamor, a scant two days after Joel Escorial, the self confessed gunman, pointed to Villamor as the go-between for the plot and transaction to kill Mabasa for P500,000.
In this situation where there are so many suspects and no mastermind can be immediately ascertained the next best thing to investigate is the money trail laid down when the contract for the kill was being negotiated. In the timeline established for the hit on Mabasa it was revealed that during the early days of September 2022, the hitman Escorial was contacted by New Bilibid prisoner Villamor to tell him about the plan to liquidate Mabasa. As revealed by Escorial during his conversation through cellphone with Villamor, the amount of P550,000 was dangled for the contract killing and that an initial amount of P100,000 was already deposited in the bank account of Escorial. And a second deposit of P100,000 was again made into the bank account of Escorial within the same month of September.
Here the authorities have yet to inform the public on their investigation and determination as to how the P200,000 was deposited in the bank account of Escorial, which according to the latter were advance payments made by ostensibly the mastermind for the price of killing Mabasa.
If the authorities are able to learn what method was used in depositing the money to the bank account of the gunman, then perhaps the next step for this aspect of the investigation is to discover where the deposited money originally came from. It is already obvious that Escorial is a gun for hire as well as the middleman Villamor who is in prison for homicide cases and that in all probability they are part of a gun-for-hire group actively operating in the country. If the advance payment for the killing of Mabasa was personally given to Escorial and not through his bank account then the authorities would have a more difficult time following the money trail. But here the advance payments were deposited in the bank account of the gunman.
Now using all the authority and power allowed under the law the PNP and NBI investigators can attempt to trace the source of the money from where the advance payments were made and thus establish a trail that would hopefully lead to the mastermind, or if not, to other suspects who are in cahoots with the latter.
In fact it would be much easier to follow the money trail laid down in the contract killing than investigating all of the 160 individuals tagged as persons of interest. It is also important to note that if indeed the self-confessed gunman and the middleman or middlemen are part of an organized crime syndicate whose vocation is contract killing or assasination, then it might follow that they have no idea as to who the mastermind is behind the killing of Mabasa. In all probability, a “cut-out” or intermediary was used to get in touch with Villamor inside the New Bilibid prison for him to also get in touch with his cohorts in the gun-for-hire business and who are still at large in society. That way whoever the mastermind is in the killing of Mabasa, he would be twice removed from being identified in the event the middleman Villamor would also confess and own up to his participation in the crime.
So the investigation to determine where the money for the contract killing originally came from would at the very least provide the authorities with another angle which they can pursue to locate and identify the mastermind behind the murder of Mabasa.