November 28, 2022

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has started the investigation on the suspicious death of Cristito Villamor Palaña (previously identified as Crisanto or Jun Villamor), the alleged middleman in the murder of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.

“The President (Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.) want the mastermind. That’s why we are being cautious about what we say, everything we do,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla told reporters in an ambush interview.

Without giving names, Remulla said there were now eight persons of interest in their custody, some of them identified by Palaña in his “dying declaration,” referring to the information he relayed to his sister via Messenger chat.

“We’re being thorough about it because we’re not talking of just one murder case here. It’s possible the Jun Villamor case may be a murder case too. That’s why we’re investigating that,” he added.

Remulla appealed to the other suspects who remain at large to voluntarily surrender, including brothers Edmon and Israel Dimaculangan, who acted as lookouts, and a certain “Orly/Orlando” who drove the getaway motorcycle after Lapid was shot dead.

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He said the missing phone of Palaña is yet to be found while the cellphone of Palaña’s sister Marissa has already been recovered by the authorities.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is tracking the phone’s digital record trail while Palaña and the other suspects’ bank details were also being looked into by the NBI and the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

“It has a trail. We’ll follow the money [trail],” Remulla said, adding that even the past hits and other illegal activities of the group were being scrutinized.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) was also examining all available evidence.

“The cellphones used by the self-confessed gunman and the cellphone of the middleman’s sister were already submitted to the PNP-ACG for forensic exams,” PNP spokesman Col. Jean Fajardo said in a television interview.

Meanwhile, Senate Deputy Minority Leader Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros on Thursday submitted to the PNP the audio recording of a cell phone call and screenshots of the text messages between one of Lapid’s children and an anonymous caller issuing threats.

“I have turned over the audio recording of the cell phone call and screenshots of the text messages to Chief PNP (Rodolfo) Azurin. I trust that our law enforcers can make full use of these pieces of evidence to ensure a thorough investigation of the harassment and threats received by the Mabasa family as well as the murder of Percy itself,” said Hontiveros.

Hontiveros earlier told reporters that she got a copy of the recording when she visited the Mabasa family on October 24.

“I believe the government could provide protection and support to the wife and children of Percy at the soonest possible time,” the senator said.

“The mastermind behind Percy’s death is still at large, so we must do all we can to provide the greatest possible protection to the entire family. I also appealed to the public not to let this case be silenced. Let’s not allow a brutal killing such as this to just be swept under the rug,” Hontiveros added.