By Benjamin Pulta

BANTAG AT DOJ. Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Chief Gerald Bantag attends the preliminary investigation on Percy Lapid case at the Department of Justice building on Padre Faura, Manila on Monday (Dec. 5, 2022). Bantag sought the inhibition of state prosecutors from the proceedings as Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla has shown biases against him. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA—Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Director General Gerald Bantag appeared at the Department of Justice’s preliminary investigation on the murder cases of newsman Percival “Ka Percy Lapid” Mabasa and inmate Jun Villamor on Monday.

Bantag, who was accompanied by his counsel, lawyer Rocky Balisong, asked that the prosecutors be recused from handling the cases filed against him and several others.

Balisong said DOJ prosecutors must inhibit themselves from handling the cases as they questioned the impartiality of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla.

He added that it is better to change the panel since the prosecutors are under the control of Remulla who could motu proprio (on his own) make a review of the resolution and substitute the findings of the panel.

“So that’s our fear, so with due respect to the Department of Justice and the investigating panel, we are asking the Department of Justice to inhibit,” he said.

Remulla, meanwhile, welcomed the appearance of Bantag during the initial investigation proceedings. He, however, thumbed down the request.

He advised Bantag and his counsel to simply face the cases.

“Inhibition is not the question,” Remulla said when asked for comment. “Mabuti naman (It’s good Bantag attended). Ginalang nya ang batas. Sana lagi niyang galangin ang batas (He respected the law. I hope he always respects it).”

“Wala tayong drama dito. Harapin lang nya ang kaso (He should face the cases),” he added.

Meanwhile, Lapid’s brother, journalist Roy Mabasa said the move to seek the inhibition of the prosecutors is to delay the proceedings.

Magkakaroon ng delay dito. Ito ay pag-aaralan namin kung mag pa file kami ng affidavit (This would delay [the proceedings]. We are studying if we would file an affidavit). For us this is another delay,” Mabasa said.

Bantag’s camp claimed it is the Office of the Ombudsman and not the DOJ that has the jurisdiction to investigate the allegations against ranking government officials like him. (PNA)