Philippines: Prison Chief Charged Over Journalist Killing

    Photo: Reuters [via Al Jazeera]

    The Facts

    • On Monday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed murder complaints against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Gerald Bantag for the deaths of radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa, knowns as "Percy Lapid," and alleged middleman Jun Villamor.

    • BuCor's Directorate for Security and Operations Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta has also been charged as an alleged mastermind of both cases, with various detainees also facing complaints for cooperation and direct participation in the killings.

    The Spin

    Establishment-critical narrative

    This case could have already been solved, but the government has mishandled the probe by exposing the gunman and then failing to protect the alleged middleman. Focusing on Bantag is another mistake as there are another 159 people of interest in the "Percy Lapid" case, and his suspension only benefits corrupt BuCor officials and drug lords.

    Pro-establishment narrative

    Philippine authorities have gathered enough evidence to claim that Bantag is the mastermind behind the killings of "Percy Lapid" and Villamor. While there could be another mastermind behind him, the former prisons chief had a clear motive to order the reporter's death and should be held accountable.

    Cynical narrative

    The identification of suspects involved in the "Percy Lapid" killing is a positive step, but justice must be served for all of them. Though the latest developments could be seen as a sign that the Philippines is taking action against impunity surrounding the murder of journalists, it's more likely that authorities are focused on it solely because Lapid was a prominent journalist murdered in esteemed Manila.

    Establishment split



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