When murder convict Crisanto “Jun” Villamor died inside the national penitentiary on the same day the police presented to the media the self-confessed gunman in Percy Lapid case, there was suspicion some people inside the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) could have been involved in the two deaths.

There were speculations Percival Mabasa, alias Percy Lapid, was killed to silence him because his consistent attacks were hurting some people.

The man who pulled the trigger, Joel Escorial, told police investigators his town mate from Leyte had hired them for the hit and paid them P500,000. He even gave the police his bank account to prove the payment was made for the killing.

But the police investigators may not know who ordered the killing after Villamor mysteriously died inside the prison. Villamor hired and could have paid the gunman but he was silenced before he could name the real mastermind.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials could not feign innocence in Villamor’s death. There’s circumstantial evidence that would point to a conspiracy involving prison officials not only in connection with Villamor’s death but also Mabasa’s assassination.

First, when the police went to the Bureau of Corrections to check the information given by the gunman that he was hired by a person deprived of liberty (PDL) at the Bilibid, prison officials denied there was a convicted prisoner of that name.

BuCor officials could have checked all prisoners named Villamor instead of dismissing the police inquiry.

Actually, there were only two prisoners with the surname Villamor and one of them could have been the “middleman.” It was sloppy work but it could also be deliberate to mislead the police.

Second, when a prisoner named Villamor died, prison officials did not report the incident to Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla who supervises the Bureau of Corrections.

Instead, Remulla learned about Villamor’s death from Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos. Why was Remulla kept in the dark by BuCor officials?

BuCor officials should have reported Villamor’s death to the justice secretary knowing the police had been asking about a prisoner named Villamor who could have had links to the Mabasa killing.

BuCor officials should have taken great interest in Villamor’s death instead of treating it as a normal incident. Three to five prisoners die every day in facilities and penal colonies around the country.

However, Villamor’s death is out of the ordinary because he was neither too old nor too sick. His death was highly suspicious.

Third, on the day Villamor died, he was immediately embalmed by a local funeral parlor before authorities could perform an autopsy to find out how he died.

Villamor’s sudden death could have been induced by drugs or some chemicals in his body but it would be impossible to determine if he was poisoned because he was embalmed. The haste in embalming Villamor’s body was highly suspicious as well.

All three circumstances point to a conspiracy within the Bilibid, a scene straight out from a movie about prisoners being used as assassins.

If a prisoner can order a hit outside the prisons’ walls, authorities should really investigate how these things could be possible. Mobile phones are prohibited inside the prisons. How come the middleman, Villamor, could contact the gunman and his team and order a kill?

There is really no direct evidence linking the Bureau of Corrections to the killing of Percy Lapid but there was enough circumstantial evidence after Villamor died.

Secretary Remulla’s order suspending the BuCor Director General Gerard Bantag was a correct step to clean up the prisons and find out the extent of the conspiracy behind Lapid’s death.

Bantag was among 160 people considered “persons of interest” who were frequently mentioned by Lapid in his broadcasts but it was too early to conclude he was behind Mabasa’s assassnation.

The Philippine National Police’s (PNP) skills in solving the Mabasa case are being tested. Three weeks after Mabasa was killed, the public is still closely following the case. There are many loose ends to tie up. Everyday, there are twists and turns in the case.

Villamor’s elder sister came out to reveal that her brother had told her before he died that his life was in danger, and gave three names who could be responsible if he died.

His sister gave the names to Sen. Raffy Tulfo when she approached his radio program, doubting the mysterious death of her brother whom she had talked with hours before he died.

The Mabasa family doubted the elder sister’s story when she asked for money in exchange for information about the three men who could possibly be behind her brother’s death. It is still uncertain if the three were also involved in the Percy Lapid case. There could be other old scores that needed to be settled inside the Bilibid.

However, any information that could shed light on Villamor’s death should be looked into. Hopefully the three new names are safe inside the Bilibid.

A former military chief, retired general Gregorio Catapang, who was designated as BuCor officer in charge, has a big task ahead to reform the prisons and ensure the safety of the three men whom Villamor’s sister had named as potential witnesses or suspects in her brother’s death.

The country’s justice system needs reform. From law enforcement to the prison facilities. Perhaps, Percy Lapid did not not only expose the wrongdoings of government officials, he also exposed the country’s rotten justice system.