On October 18, Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos announced that 38-year-old Joel Estorial had surrendered himself to police, confessing to the incident and handing over a gun. Police confirmed the alleged murder weapon used the same bullets as the one found at the crime scene.
Estorial fronted the media wearing a bulletproof vest and helmet and provided details on the attack. The suspect identified two other men allegedly involved in the killing, Edmon Dimaculangan and Israel Dimaculangan, and said he received orders from a man known only as Orly or Orlando, operating out of New Bilibid Prison. The Philippines’ Department of Justice has since confirmed all three men have been charged as respondents, however, all are currently at large.
The victim’s family, media rights groups and civil society organisations have welcomed the arrest but insisted that law enforcement continue their investigation. Several groups have warned against rising impunity in the killings of media personalities and critical voices.
Percival Mabasa, a radio broadcaster and outspoken critic of both former President Rodrigo Duterte and incumbent President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, was shot dead in his vehicle in Las Piñas City on October 3. His killing inspired international outrage, with media rights groups and foreign governments declaring their concern for the incident and calling for an immediate investigation. Lapid was the second journalist to be killed under the Marcos Jr. administration since its election in June 2022.
The NUJP said: “While we welcome this development, we cannot help but raise more questions regarding the surrender of the alleged gunman. We hope that the authorities be more transparent as the family deserves no less than the truth. We urge authorities to continue their investigation until the mastermind is identified and held accountable. Let the case of Percy Lapid be an eye-opener on the extent of impunity in the crimes against journalists. We reiterate our call for justice for 196 other journalists who were murdered since 1986.”
The IFJ said: “While detaining a suspect in Percy Lapid’s case is a welcome development, it is not sufficient to ensure justice in this case. The IFJ strongly condemns the killing of Percy Lapid, and urge authorities to ensure that all individuals involve in the journalist’s killing are brought to justice.”