BY reading and following news updates on the investigation of the murder of hard-hitting radio commentator and broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa on October 3, 2022, I observed that boastfulness bungled it. This further led the police and other law enforcers into a blame-game for the mistakes that they themselves committed earlier.
Two weeks later on October 17, a certain Joel Escorial who claimed to have shot Percy Lapid surrendered to the police. On October 18, DILG Sec. Benhur Abalos and the police generals presented to the media the gunman who “confessed that someone from Bilibid” ordered him to kill Percy Lapid.
Escorial gave the police the identity of the middleman as a certain Crisanto Villamor in the New Bilibid Prison who ordered the killing of Percy Lapid, although the gunman did not mention the name during the media briefing.
Looking at how the media briefing was conducted, Sec. Abalos and the police generals proudly presented Escorial on public television like he was their “trophy”. So full of themselves, they asked Escorial about his involvement in the murder case.
The rule of thumb for those involved in the investigation should have been “less talk, less mistake” but apparently the panel in the media briefing were very eager to release on public television the information extracted from the confessed gunman.
The inmates at the NBP were watching TV at that time and heard Escorial’s revelations. The alleged middleman in the bilibid whose name was not mentioned by Escorial could have been watching too.
After Escorial stated during the media briefing on October 18 that the middleman in the killing of Percy Lapid was “someone from bilibid,” Villamor died in prison and was declared dead in the afternoon at 2:05 PM of the same day.
The presentation on public TV was too early, too soon. It could have possibly provoked the untimely death of the alleged middleman before he was secured by the police or the NBP authorities.
But securing the middleman was not a priority as those initially involved in the investigation were after their promotions, praises from the public and pogi points. There was even a statement from one of the ranking PNP officers that the case was already solved.
Based on the timeline provided by news reports, Escorial surrendered on October 17. In the afternoon of October 18, Villamor died. This means police investigators had time to check on the claim of Escorial and secure the middleman because he only died a day later.
Too late. It was only on October 19 that NBP officials received a letter from police investigators inquiring about a certain Crisanto Villamor, the name Escorial mentioned in his confession. The BuCor replied to the letter on October 20 saying that it has no records of the name.
Aside from this, the middleman had three names provided by different sources. These were Crisanto Villamor as given by Escorial to the police; Jun Villamor y Globa as provided by NBP and BuCor records; and Jun Villamor y Garcia as provided by DOJ Sec. Remulla.
The PNP officials claimed in many news interviews that it has informed BuCor that the alleged middleman is detained at the Bilibid but this is contradicted by the fact that their letter asking about a certain Crisanto Villamor was dated October 19. Escorial surrendered on October 17 while Villamor died on October 18.
But PNP chief Gen. Rodolfo Azurin Jr. said in one of the press briefings that they were not aware whether the “initial coordination” (if there was any) reached BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag.
This says a lot. No one knows if there was an initial coordination. As head of the investigation agency, Gen. Azurin must be aware. It is the investigation team and its head’s responsibility to make sure that the BuCor head in the person of DG Bantag is informed. Surely, if Bantag was informed, he could have taken action.
In a report by GMA, Bantag said that Villamor could have been secured by BuCor had they been informed immediately that he was in any way involved in the killing of Percy Lapid. But they were only informed of Villamor’s identity after he was pronounced dead on October 18.
The death of the middleman and the failure in coordination led the police into a blame-game. This is not the time to be pointing at the inaction of others but to admit what mistakes they themselves have committed. In the first place, there was failure in managing the investigation and in doing things the right way.
In the media briefing, those in the panel claimed to have secured the middleman. Again this was refuted by the fact that the body of the middleman was embalmed first, which practically compromised an autopsy. As police investigators, they were taught in school to secure the crime scene from contamination.
Dr. Raquel Fortun, leading forensic pathologist said, an autopsy should be done before the body is embalmed because the latter contaminates the body and compromises the examination of the remains.
Dr. Fortun noticed a number of errors within the time leading to the embalming process. First, the autopsy report did not specify the cause of death. Villamor was declared dead at 2:05 p.m. Then his remains were taken to a funeral home later in the evening where the embalming process began.
No one knows if any police investigator was present to witness the embalming process or who gave the okay signal. On the NBI autopsy report, Dr. Fortun noticed that there was no date and time on when the autopsy and the embalming procedures were done which are important.
Dr. Fortun was even more puzzled as the “postmortem lividity” was supposedly “consistent with the time of the death,” despite the examination being done after the body had already been embalmed. Lividity is the discoloration of the skin that appears bluish after death.
I learned much from reading and following the news reports. I hope the investigation task group composed of police generals learned much too from their mistakes, even if they would not admit them. It is not too early after all, but it is not too late.