The Department of Justice served a subpoena to suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag on Tuesday, in connection with his alleged involvement in the killing of broadcast commentator Percival Mabasa also known as Percy Lapid.
“The subpoena was served to the last known address of Bantag in Caloocan,” Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit said in a text message to reporters.
But he added that the barangay captain told the process server that Bantag no longer stayed at that address after his appointment to BuCor.
Guhit said the subpoena against Bantag, who was tagged as the mastermind in Mabasa’s killing, was deemed served.
Bantag’s lawyer, Rocky Balisong, insisted that his client is not hiding and is only staying in Baguio.
“He is just here in the Philippines. He is not hiding. There is no reason for him to hide. There is no warrant of arrest issued against him,” Balisong said in a television interview with ANC.
“In fact, we are just waiting for the subpoena to be served so he can submit his counter-affidavit on the charges filed against him. We are willing to have it received here in Baguio.”
“We are going to coordinate with the DOJ on how they will treat the serving of the subpoena at the last known address.
If that is the interpretation that it is considered served, then we will take it from there,” Balisong added.
Guhit, however, said they have no information about where in Baguio City Bantag was staying.
He said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) must provide a new address before the DOJ can issue another subpoena to Bantag.
Murder complaints have been filed against Bantag, BuCor Senior Supt. Ricardo Zulueta, and others over the killing of Mabasa and an alleged middleman in the slay plot, New Bilibid Prison inmate Cristito Villamor Palaña a.k.a. Jun Villamor.
Bantag has denied involvement in the killings and refused to surrender.
Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said the hearing is set for Nov. 23, Wednesday at 9 a.m. and Dec. 5, Monday at 1 p.m.
Also subpoenaed were BuCor Deputy Security Officer Ricardo Zulueta and four inmates.
The DOJ previously said evidence prompted the filing of murder charges against Bantag, contrary to his claim that he is being persecuted to ease him out of office.
“Nobody wanted the evidence to point to Bantag. It was not good news when the evidence started to point to the respondents,” DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said in a press briefing on Friday.
Meanwhile, Senator Ronald dela Rosa dismissed speculation that the PNP and NBI connived to pin the murder on Bantag and to cover up the real mastermind.
He said this was “very impossible” because both investigative agencies were professional.
Dela Rosa spoke to CNN Philippines, which asked him to comment on Bantag’s statement that he would surrender only if Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla steps down for allegedly bungling the investigation into Mabasa’s murder.
The senator also said no need for a Senate investigation into the death of the broadcaster.
The Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs chaired by Dela Rosa was supposed to investigate Mabasa’s killing, but deferred it after the NBI recommended the filing of charges against Bantag and other suspects.
“I will definitely face this case together with my supporters, but if SOJ Boying (Remulla) will not step down, I will not surrender even if I have a warrant of arrest,” Bantag told CNN Philippines.
“Why will I surrender? They will just conspire against me again. But if Boying leaves, then I can surrender,” he added.