Bantag subpoena has different middle name

The subpoena for suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag bore a different middle name.

Atty. Rocky Balisong yesterday said there was a mistake in the subpoena sent by a Department of Justice panel of prosecutors to Bantag last Monday.

The document, which Balisong received at the DoJ office in Padre Faura, Manila on Monday, required his client to attend the preliminary investigations on 23 November and 5 December.

He said the subpoena was addressed to a certain Gerald Bantag y Soriano, instead of Gerald Bantag y Quitaleg.

Balisong said the error “is fatal” because it refers to two different individuals.

“Definitely, Gerald Bantag y Soriano is not our client,” he added during yesterday’s preliminary investigation.

It was not known why Balisong still received the subpoena for someone else, not his client, or why he did not immediately inform the DoJ of the erroneous name, and still proceeded to attend the preliminary probe.

Meanwhile, BuCor Deputy Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta, a co-respondent of Bantag, was a no-show in the preliminary probe.

Not even a lawyer appeared to represent Zulueta in the investigation, said Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit.

Guhit said the New Bilibid Prison inmates under the National Bureau of Investigation custody appeared via video conferencing, which was allowed according for security purposes.

Not easy
Roy Mabasa, brother of radioman Percy Lapid (real name: Percival Mabasa), said he expects justice to take time.

“This is not an easy process,” said Mabasa who was present during the preliminary investigation.

He shrugged off the supposed mistake in the subpoena, saying “delays are part of the quest for justice.”

“It’s part of the quest for justice to have delays but we are hoping that the fiscals handling the preliminary investigation are fair. They were also told to be ready to file their counter-affidavit,” he said.

A three-man panel of government prosecutors has been tasked to conduct a preliminary investigation into the two murder complaints. The next preliminary investigation is set on 5 December.

Double murder charges were filed by the NBI and Philippine National Police against Bantag, Zulueta, and several others for the death of Lapid, who was killed in an ambush on 3 October in Las Piñas City, and NBP inmate Cristito Villamor, an alleged middleman who supposedly contacted Joel Escorial to gun down the broadcaster.

Mabasa said the PNP is now pursuing several leads in locating Zulueta, Bantag’s alleged right-hand man, who up to now is nowhere to be found.

“No sign but medyo meron na tayong sinusundan na mga lead (we have leads) according to the PNP,” Mabasa said.

Villamor died inside the jail on 18 October, hours after he was tagged by Escorial as the alleged middleman when the latter was presented to the media by Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos.

The NBI has ruled out foul play in the death of Villamor.

In its report submitted to the DoJ, the NBI said there were “no apparent signs of external physical injury” found on the body of Villamor during the autopsy.

“The heart showed a hemorrhagic area over the left ventricle,” wrote Dr. Marivic Villarin-Floro, NBI medico-legal officer and Task Force Villamor leader, in her report dated 20 October.

“The mitral valve is sclerotic, which could indicate previous illnesses or valvular infection,” Villarin-Floro added.

The second autopsy conducted by forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun showed that Villamor died by way of suffocation.

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