Manhunt on for Bantag, Zulueta

By: John Eric Mendoza - Inquirer.net | April 15,2023 - 08:29 PM

Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat Jr., chief of the CIDG.

Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat Jr., chief of the CIDG. (Photo from a video posted on the PNP-CIDG Facebook page)

MANILA, Philippines — The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Friday said it has launched a manhunt operation against former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and his deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta.

This developed after a Muntinlupa City court ordered their arrest for the murder of an inmate of the New Bilibid Prison, Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña.

Bantag and Zulueta were also linked to the assassination of radioman Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa in October last year. Palaña was the alleged middleman in the plot to kill Mabasa.

READ: Bantag, others indicted for murder of Percy Lapid, Bilibid inmate

“Sa bisa ng warrant of arrest na aming nakuha ay agaran kong ipinag-utos ang isang malawakang manhunt operation upang madakip ang mga nasabing mastermind sa pagpatay kina Percy Lapid at Villamor (Palaña),” CIDG Police Brig. Gen. Romeo Caramat Jr. said in a statement. He ordered the intensive search on Thursday.

(Under the arrest warrant we obtained, I immediately ordered a massive manhunt operation to arrest the said masterminds in the murder of Percy Lapid and Villamor Palaña.)

Caramat said he likewise ordered the creation of “tracker teams” that will focus on case build-up and operational research to determine the whereabouts of Bantag and Zulueta.

“Ang pagbuo ng tracker teams na ito ay may layong mapabilis at magkaroon ng mas planadong paghahanap at pagtugis sa mga akusado upang masiguradong kahit saang panig ng Pilipinas, mula rito sa Metro Manila hanggang Mindanao ay ma-cover natin sa ating gagawing manhunt operation,” he added.

(The formation of tracker teams aims to fast track and make a more organized search and pursuit of the accused to ensure that we can cover anywhere in the Philippines, from here in Metro Manila to Mindanao, in our manhunt operation.)

Lapid, who had repeatedly criticized Bantag in his online radio show, was ambushed and killed near his neighborhood in Las Piñas City on October 3, 2022. His death sparked widespread condemnation and a high-profile investigation.

On October 17, 2022, confessed gunman Joel Escorial surrendered to authorities and said at a press conference on the following day that Palaña, an NBP inmate, contracted him to kill Mabasa for P550,000.

Just hours after the press conference held at the Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City, Palaña was found dead at NBP.

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TAGS: BuCor, CIDG, manhunt, Percy Lapid
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