Wrong subpoena, wrong mastermind?

It cannot give the excuse that the erroneous name spelled in the subpoena was merely a typographical error because the mistake was not about the correctness of the spelling, but it bore a different name from that intended.

Looks like the Department of Justice’s braggadocio in heralding the solution of the Percy Lapid murder case has been pierced by its inefficiency in putting the correct middle name of suspended Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag in the subpoena it issued to the latter for the preliminary investigation it conducted on 23 November 2022.

Bantag was correct in not attending the preliminary investigation because he was not properly served. The subpoena handed to his lawyer indicated a different name. Necessarily, his lawyer could not participate in the proceeding other than making a manifestation that the subpoena given to him was addressed not to his client. The name printed on the subpoena is Gerald Bantag y Soriano. The full name of the erstwhile BuCor chief is Gerald Bantag y Quitaleg. Since the subpoena was addressed to another individual, certainly the lawyer cannot represent a person whose full name bears a different middle name from the person identified in the subpoena. In other words, the DoJ subpoenaed the wrong person.

How in the world could DoJ commit such a colossal mistake of not knowing the correct name of the respondent it summoned?

Getting the correct name of a person is so easy. Respondent Bantag is not an unknown and faceless citizen. He has been in the news every day for the last many weeks. Until his preventive suspension, he hugged the limelight, not only for his reputation of being tough to convicted criminals in prison but for initially being a person of interest in the twin murder case, and eventually being tagged as the mastermind or as vexingly described by the authorities, as one of the masterminds.

Given his prominence, as well as DoJ’s priding itself to have solved the two murders in such a short time, one would never expect that it doesn’t know the real name of its prey. Getting Bantag’s full name should have been a breeze or as the clichè goes, “a walk in the park”. All it must do is look at the personal file of Bantag in the Bureau of Corrections, which is under its jurisdiction. Or it could have gotten from the Philippine Statistics Authority. And if it is too lazy to do either of that, it can just google Bantag’s name, and his full name will pop out.

It cannot give the excuse that the erroneous name spelled in the subpoena was merely a typographical error because the mistake was not about the correctness of the spelling, but it bore a different name from that intended.

It’s gross inefficiency, if not gross incompetence!

As correctly pointed out by my lawyer son, if the DoJ cannot even do such a simple thing as getting the correct name of the respondent, then how can it properly and efficiently handle a gargantuan and complex double murder case?

The DoJ has been making missteps at the inception of this case. It announced that Bantag was missing when he never was. He was in Baguio all the time and even had a much-publicized interview.

Then it said the subpoenas were already issued and already in the process of being served to the respondents. However, when Bantag’s lawyer went to DoJ to get the subpoena, he was told the subpoena was not yet ready for release, so he left the DoJ building empty-handed.

Thereafter, it stated that a subpoena has been deemed served at his last known address in Caloocan, but it turned out the DoJ server didn’t leave any copy of the subpoena and its attachments thereat.

The server went to the barangay captain whose barangay territorially covered the aforesaid Caloocan house, and was told Bantag no longer resided there, but the DoJ personnel also didn’t leave a subpoena to the barangay official, who could have given it to Bantag, if he happens to show himself up in his last known residence.

Owing to the widely covered interview of Bantag in Baguio, the DoJ could have easily communicated with the local officials or the PNP in Baguio, and effected the service of the subpoena to Bantag while he was making the interview, but it didn’t do that. Either it found it unnecessary, which lack of disinterest is an incorrect attitude, or it was beyond its creative comprehension.

When it was finally able to give the subpoena to Bantag’s lawyer, the summoning document contained a different name! Wow, what a balderdash!

How can we be convinced persuaded, or persuaded, against our better judgment, to believe its theory of Bantag being a mastermind of the heinous crimes when it does not even know his full name or the ability to get it from competent and unimpeachable sources?

It must be cautioned that the life of a person hangs in balance. It must be reminded that a person wrongly accused faces the peril of being scarred forever, his name tarnished, and his family irreparably wounded emotionally.

It should remember that it is better to release or acquit a guilty person than to convict and incarcerate an innocent man. Depriving an innocent of his liberty is the height of injustice and a tragedy of the worst kind.

If it’s incorrect in sending the wrong subpoena, then it’s not farfetched nor improbable that it is tagging the wrong mastermind.


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