December 2, 2022

WITH five days to go before the preliminary investigation into the murder of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and the death of alleged middleman Cristito Villamor Palana, suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag, who has been tagged as the mastermind in the killings, is still awaiting his subpoena.

“We are still waiting for the subpoena to be delivered here in Baguio City,” Bantag’s counsel, lawyer Rocky Thomas Balisong, said on Friday.

“We now have to make it clear, if we do not receive the subpoena, we will not be appearing on November 23. But if we do receive the subpoena, depending when, if we receive it on Monday or Tuesday or even today (Friday) we will be appearing before the prosecuting panel not necessarily with our client, it could only be me, or some of the members of our legal team, who will appear before the DoJ (Department of Justice) just to manifest to them that we have received the subpoena,” he added.

Balisong said they will ask the DoJ for an extension to file his client’s counter-affidavit if they receive the subpoena at the last-minute.

The subpoena states that Bantag is required to appear at the Department of Justice (DoJ) building in Manila on November 23 and December 5.

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He is also ordered to submit his counter-affidavits – as well as the affidavits of his witnesses, if any – to be sworn before the panel of prosecutors handling the case.

Failure to comply “shall be considered as waiver to present [his] defense in the preliminary investigation and the case shall be considered submitted for resolution,” based on the subpoena.

The writ was signed on November 14 by the three-member panel of prosecutors, which include Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Charlie Guhit, Deputy State Prosecutor Olivia Laroza-Torrevillas, and Senior Assistant Prosecutor Josie Christina Dugay.

The subpoena was delievered to Bantag’s last known address in Caloocan City on November 15. However, no one was at the house to receive the subpoena. This prompted the process server to pin a copy on the gate. It was also later revealed that a the village chief was also given a copy of the document.

However, according to Balisong, the recent photos and videos showing the subpoena pinned on a gate was actually at the house of co-respondent, former BuCor superintendent Ricardo Zulueta’s in Pandi, Bulacan and not at Bantag’s in Caloocan.

He further said that “it seems that the village chief where Bantag’s house in Caloocan is located was not actually given a copy of the subpoena.”

“We have to clarify, if it was received by the barangay chairman or if it was left at the house then it could be considered as deemed served in accordance with the prosecutor’s manual,” Balisong said on Friday.

“But it seems like they didn’t leave the copy of the subpoena. I think the one they are showing that was placed at the gate is actually at Zulueta’s house. But as far as we are concerned, it seems that we are looking at whether it was left at home, General Bantag’s last known address or in the barangay, it seems that it was not. So we have to check if the process server really left [the subpoena] there. If this is the case, then we will consider the subpoena not yet served,” he added.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), meanwhile, said it has yet to receive instruction from the DoJ on whether they will assist in serving the subpoena at least in the current location of Bantag in Baguio. The PNP in Baguio said it is already aware of the exact place where Bantag is staying.