Slain broadcaster’s kin: ‘Gunman’ needs vetting
MANILA, Philippines — The family of slain radio broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa on Tuesday expressed “reservation” that the confessed assassin was the real killer and lawmakers said the police should ensure a tight case against those responsible for the killing.
Roy Mabasa, the victim’s younger brother and a fellow journalist, was thankful to authorities for getting the suspect, Joel Estorial, to surrender but said his family would ask the Philippine National Police to allow them to meet the alleged gunman and to stage a reenactment of the Oct. 3 fatal ambush to “test the integrity of his story.”
“This is not because I am doubtful of the results of the investigation but this is just a reservation that he really is the one we saw on the closed-circuit television footage (of the crime scene),” he said in a phone interview.
He said some of his friends and colleagues believe Estorial’s “profile didn’t seem to match” the suspect who was caught by the CCTV cameras.
He said the request “is also for the public good.”
The 63-year-old Mabasa, a tough-talking critic of former President Rodrigo Duterte and the policies and officials of the Marcos administration, was shot twice to the head while driving to his studio in Las Piñas City to broadcast his “Lapid Fire” program on dwBL radio station which is livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook.
Estorial surrendered to the police on Monday. He said he feared for his life and asked for forgiveness from his victim’s family.
Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos had announced a P6.5-million reward for the shooter. He had repeatedly warned the gunman to surrender or face possible elimination by those behind the assassination.
When Estorial was presented by Abalos to the media at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame on Tuesday, the confessed gunman’s face was half-covered by a mask and he was wearing a bulletproof vest and Kevlar helmet.
“The public may be asking, did he really surrender or he’s just a fall guy? No, it’s really him,” Abalos said.
He said investigators were confident that Estorial was the gunman because the slugs recovered from the crime scene matched those from the .45-caliber pistol he had turned over to the police and the red jacket he was seen wearing when he shot the broadcaster was recovered, although it had already been torn up.
“I am afraid for my life and I am being bothered by my conscience for what I did to Percy Lapid,” Estorial said.
“I hope that they forgive me,” he said, teary-eyed. “I did not want to do it. I was forced to do it because of poverty. I had no job and I needed the money.”
Estorial, 39, is a native of Javier, a fourth-class municipality in Leyte province, who had settled in Quezon City.
According to Estorial, he and five others were involved in the killing. He named three of them—brothers Edmon, 30, and Israel Dimaculangan, 35, who were residents of Las Piñas; and a certain “Orly” or “Orlando” from Batangas province.
The three are now the subjects of an “intensive follow-up operation” by a special police task group, according to Police Brig. Gen. Jonnel Estomo, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office.
Estorial said the person who “put out the contract” to kill Mabasa was an inmate at New Bilibid Prison (NBP) who served as the middle man for the unknown mastermind.
Police said the fifth accomplice was still unidentified.
‘Straight out of a film’
Mabasa’s brother said Estorial’s confession, if true, was “scary because this story is like straight out of a film” and those involved could be killed “and the truth will die with them.”
“I do not want my brother to be simply part of the statistics of our dismal record of impunity in the country,” he said.