Americas News

Call for justice for Percy Lapid pressed on broadcaster’s death anniversary

MANILA/CITY OF CARSON, California  — Filipino journalists and supporters of slain broadcaster Percival Mabasa, more popularly known as  Percy Lapid, marked his first death anniversary  in Manila and the City of Carson in California,  renewing their call for justice for the broadcaster.

Lapid’s family and friends, some of them are in California, and several diplomats also called for the masterminds in Lapid’s killing to be brought to justice.

Lapid’s younger brother, former National Press Club (NPC) president and Manila Bulletin diplomatic reporter Roy Mabasa also called on the government to exert political will to expedite the trial of his brother’s killers.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), meanwhile, along with campus journalists from different schools staged a protest in front of the Department of Justice in Manila.

“Syempre ang gusto natin ma-aresto yung alleged mastermind sa pagpatay kay Percy Lapid, hindi sapat na accessories to the crime lang ang nakakulong so hinahamon natin ang Department of Justice na gawin ang lahat para ma-aresto si Bantag,” NUJP Secretary General Len Olea said, referring to former Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag, tagged as the mastermind in the assassination of Mabasa.

The groups said their call for justice is not just for Lapid but also for the other journalists who were slain for just doing their job.

On October 3, 2022, Lapid, a staunch critic of former president Rodrigo Duterte and incumbent president Ferdinand Marcos Jr., was shot dead on his way home in Las Piñas City. Later on, the alleged gunman, Joel Escorial, surrendered and implicated various individuals, including persons deprived of liberty.

Former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief  Gerald Bantag was tagged in the killing as an alleged mastermind. However, despite a pending charge and warrant against the former BuCor official, he and his co-accused, former BuCor official Ricardo Zulueta, have yet to be arrested by the authorities.

Meanwhile, Escorial asked the court for a lower penalty via a plea bargain deal. Prior to that, three New Bilibid Prison gang leaders were sentenced to imprisonment of two up to eight years after they pleaded guilty as accessories to the Lapid’s killing.

The Freedom for Media Freedom for All (FMFA), a coalition of press freedom advocates including the NUJP, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Mindanews, and the Philippine Press Institute, also called for swift justice for the journalist’s slay.

“FMFA calls for urgent attention to the court hearings, including making sure that the accused are represented by their lawyers so that court proceedings are not delayed by their absences,” the group said in a statement.

The group also noted that Lapid’s killing showed how dangerous the Philippines is for hard-hitting and critical journalists.

“Mabasa’s murder laid bare how dangerous the Philippines has become for media workers, particularly for hard-hitting radio commentators. The high-profile investigation that followed also revealed the sordid underbelly of the Philippine correctional system,” the FMFA said.