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FIRING LINE: Percy Lapid case unclosed

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr..

The sudden demise last weekend of fugitive Ricardo Zulueta — the deputy chief jailer implicated in the plot to murder hard-hitting radio commentator Percy Lapid — raises more questions now than it answers. 

For 15 months since the Las Pinas City ambush that ended Lapid’s life in 2022, authorities seemed to play an elaborate game of hide and seek with Zulueta, one of the prime suspects who answered to the alleged mastermind: his boss, former Bureau of Corrections director general Gerald Bantag. 

Then, out of the blue, Zulueta quietly succumbs to “heart failure” in Bataan, where he had apparently been cradled by his brother all along. How convenient!

The Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the Philippine National Police must stop treating the public and the media like fools. Who’s to believe they could not track Zulueta to his brother?

But how could that be so surprising when authorities have been tiptoeing around Bantag and never had him behind bars? If, for example, Zulueta did not die of natural causes but was indeed “silenced” to cover up for something more sinister, churning out the truth from a dead man is now nearly impossible.

If Zulueta was disavowed and disposed of in this murky affair, his family deserves justice, too. But my heart goes out, especially to the family of Lapid (real name Percival Mabasa). There’s a failure of justice here. Had justice been served faithfully and sooner, this would not have been the messy telenovela it has been and continues to be.

This development is feeding us more reason to doubt if justice is moving in the right direction. Without Bantag in custody and divulging all he knows on record, this case might very well still be unclosed.

Get Mangumpit!

Meanwhile, last weekend’s capture of two suspects in the brutal live-streamed murder of broadcaster Juan “DJ Johnny Walker” Jumalon more than four months ago is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise bleak landscape of justice in the country.

I commend the police team that arrested cousins Boboy and Renante Bongcawel — the lookout and getaway driver, respectively — for bringing them in to finally face the consequences of their actions.

However, let’s not pat ourselves on the back too soon. The alleged gunman, Julito Hunsay Mangumpit, who callously snuffed out Jumalon’s life on live radio, remains at large. It is a thundering slap in the face to Jumalon’s memory and to every journalist risking their lives to uncover the truth when his killer roams free.

The authorities responsible for apprehending Mangumpit — the intelligence units of the Misamis Occidental Police Provincial Office and the Police Regional Office 10 — must not drag their feet. Firing Line also appeals to those who might be coddling this Mangupit: give him up and clear your conscience!

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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email or tweet @Side_View via X app (formerly Twitter). Read current and past issues of this column at

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