Philippine radio journalist Percival Mabasa, who was shot dead on October 3, 2022, working in the studio.
Philippine radio journalist Percival Mabasa, who was shot dead in 2022. A fifth person has been convicted for his killing but the alleged mastermind remains at large. (Screenshot: Percy Lapid Fire/Facebook)

Shooter of Philippine journalist Percival Mabasa given up to 16 years jail

Bangkok, May 8, 2024—The Committee to Protect Journalists commends the conviction and sentencing of Joel Escorial, who confessed to shooting dead Philippine journalist Percival Mabasa in 2022.

On Monday, May 6, Harold Cesar Huliganga, presiding judge at the Regional Trial Court Branch 254 in the city of Las Piñas, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the capital, Manila, sentenced Escorial to between eight years and eight months and 16 years in prison for being an accessory to murder, according to multiple news reports.

Escorial will be held in a police custodial center until the trial of a second suspect, Christopher Bacoto, concludes, those sources said. 

Escorial is the fifth person to be convicted for Percival’s murder, although the alleged mastermind, the then-Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag, remains at large despite arrest warrants against him, news reports said.

“The conviction of shooter Joel Escorial is welcome news but justice won’t be served until all of those involved in journalist Percival Mabasa’s murder are apprehended, tried, and convicted,” Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative, said on Wednesday. “The cycle of impunity isn’t broken by partial justice; it requires full justice.”

Mabasa, better known as Percy Lapid, was gunned down on October 3, 2022, inside his vehicle by motorcycle-riding assailants in Las Piñas while traveling to work. As host of the “Lapid Fire” program on the DWBL 1242 radio station, he had been a prominent critic of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte in his commentaries and YouTube broadcasts, according to the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

In June 2023, three inmates in New Bilibid Prison, which is in the Metro Manila region — Aldrin Galicia, Alvin Labra, and Alfie Peñaredonda — were convicted as accessories to the crime, news reports said. In December 2023, Denver Mayores was also found guilty of being an accessory to Mabasa’s murder, according to news reports.

In June 2023, Galicia, Labra and Joseph Georfo also pleaded guilty in the killing of Bilibid inmate Jun Villamor, who allegedly contacted people outside the prison to kill Lapid, Rappler reported.

Judge Huliganga ordered an autopsy into the death of former Bureau of Corrections official Ricardo Zulueta, who had also been implicated in Lapid’s murder and died of heart failure on March 15 at the Bataan Peninsula Medical Center, according to ABS-CBN News.

The Philippines ranked eighth on CPJ’s 2023 Impunity Index, a global ranking of countries where journalists are killed and their assailants go free.

Editor’s note: This text has been update to fix a typo in the headline.