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NBI Raids Fail to Locate Fugitive Ex-Prison Chief Bantag

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) executed search warrants on April 7th at suspected safe houses associated with Gerald Bantag, the former Director General of the Bureau of Corrections. Bantag remains a fugitive, wanted for the 2022 murder of prominent radio broadcaster Percival Mabasa, known by his on-air persona Percy Lapid.

NBI agents targeted properties in Caloocan City and Laguna province. While a thorough search was conducted at both locations, Bantag was not apprehended. The NBI has assured the public that the search will continue, with investigations expanding to additional sites.

Mabasa was fatally shot near his residence following his online pronouncements that seemingly implicated Bantag in prison corruption. Authorities allege Bantag orchestrated the assassination, with incarcerated individual Cristito Villamor Palana serving as the intermediary who relayed the kill order to the gunman. Bantag has vehemently denied all accusations of corruption and involvement in the killings.

These high-profile murders have cast a harsh light on the Philippine prison system, a network plagued by overcrowding and allegations of abuse. Following his dismissal, Bantag acknowledged authorizing the excavation of a large pit within the prison complex where he resided. However, his explanation that it was intended as the “deepest swimming pool” in Manila for scuba diving has been met with widespread disbelief. Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla has even gone on record regarding an extraordinary explanation offered by Bantag, suggesting his pursuit of a rumored World War II treasure allegedly hidden in the Philippines by Japanese forces.

The NBI’s ongoing investigation and pursuit of Bantag are critical steps in securing justice for Mabasa’s death and uncovering the truth behind the alleged corruption within the prison system.