SOMETHING SMELLS FISHY

Nov 20, 2022

The title of this column is an idiom that means “a person or situation that arouses suspicion or doubt”. We connect this idiom to the recent events and circumstances surrounding the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in
Muntinlupa and the alleged involvement of suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director general Gerald Bantag in the violent death of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa. The particular situation
that invites suspicion or doubt has to do with subsequent events immediately after general Bantag was successively declared by the Department of Justice (DOJ) first as a person of interest in the investigation
conducted on the death of Mabasa, then later on as a murder suspect for the said crime of which he has recently vehemently denied.

The particular situation or actually two events that reek of a demolition job against the credibility and reputation of general Bantag as a no nonsense BuCor Director are the discovery of allegedly thousands of cans of beer and illegal drugs during a raid conducted by the authorities surprisingly at the heels or just
a couple of days after Bantag was declared a suspect in the gruesome murder, and just the other day the discovery of a hole right beside the BuCor director’s residence inside the prison purportedly either as an
escape tunnel or to locate gold as part of a treasure hunting activity.

These subsequent events occurred just after general bantag was declared by the DOJ as no longer a merely a person of interest, along with 160 others interviewed as persons of interest in the case, but
rather as a suspect and in fact was already being pointed to as the mastermind in the killing of Mabasa. If one were to read between the lines and carefully analyze these events it would seem as if there is an
orchestrated effort not only to oust the general from his post as BuCor director (remember he is only suspended from his office) but to malign and destroy his reputation as an enemy of criminals and drug
syndicates, and to make the public think and believe that he was negligent and an inept administrator of the country’s (in)famous prison.

In other words far from his established reputation and history as an archnemesis of drug lords and their ilk, those that would do evil against society, he is now being painted as someone who is friendly and in cahoots with the very criminals that he supposedly hates. In fact in the sequence of events presented to the media by the DOJ of Bantag allegedly tapping the services of gangs inside the prison not only to provide someone to kill Mabasa but, also to raise the needed money to pay off the hitman/hitmen assigned to murder Mabasa speaks of someone in cahoots if not an actual member of a criminal syndicate inside the prison.

This is the more troubling allegation that general Bantag would also have to surmount if he is to prove his
innocence in the murder of Mabasa. But the discovery by the authorities of beer cans, illegal drugs, computers, cell phones and improvised weapons allegedly within the prison walls, and then later on finding
an alleged tunnel at the Bilibid also speaks of possibly a more nagsinister plan by those working in the shadows to degrade the reputation of Bantag and have him branded as a disgraced official of the BuCor.

Performance notwithstanding, the sneaky suspicion is that the general is being ousted as BuCor director in order to have him replaced with someone else. In other words politics has entered the picture. Finally, another doubtful narrative in the sequence of events presented by the DOJ, this time in the death of the
middleman Villamor inside the prison is it was declared that four inmates belonging to the Sputnik Gang as well as gang mates of Villamor were the ones who killed him by placing a plastic bag over his head and
suffocating him.

What is downright suspicious is the description of the eevent that when the plastic bag was placed over Villamor’s head to suffocate him, he did not struggle. How they can ascertain that Villamor did not struggle or fight off those who suffocated him is quite puzzling because if it took more than four guys to kill him then it would be more plausible to believe that there was some sort of physical struggle between the victim and his killers, at least at the initial phase of the suffocation when the former will certainly have trouble
breathing and would be gasping for air.

The only way that Villamor did not struggle when he was being suffocated is that he was already dead even before the plastic bag was placed over his head. If that is so then the statement of the inmates as to
the cause of death of Villamor is blatantly inaccurate. The Mabasa murder case for all that is happening right now is dangerously taking a political twist that might conceal and provide a convenient opportunity for the real culprit and mastermind to evade justice while at the same time providing a patsy and scapegoat to take the fall.

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