EDITORIAL: Get the mastermind, not the gunman

The assassination of popular radio commentator Percy Lapid – real name Percival Mabasa — last week was a crime that stunned not just the nation, but the world.

A good number of global leaders expressed shock and indignation that such a high-profile journalist could be killed in a busy street while on his way to record his next podcast.

The unspoken warning was clear: apprehend, charge and convict whoever was behind the crime, or the Philippines’ reputation as a place that is now welcoming foreign investors with open arms will be ruined.

It is therefore an absolute must that the authorities solve this case soonest.

Lapid may have been a controversial figure given his two-fisted verbal assaults on those in government who are accused or suspected of serious malfeasance.

Indeed, the previous Duterte administration was a favorite target of his, and he had also started to take potshots at the current regime.

But he did not limit himself to training his verbal shots at the top government officials. Lapid also spoke out against any and every government agency or official whose actions he found suspicious.

He, therefore, made a lot of enemies, any one of whom could have ordered his public execution.

Thus far, the reward for information leading to the arrest of the gunman has gone up from an Initial P500, 000 to triple that amount.

The Department of Interior and Local Government has also shown a photo of the suspected gunman taken by CCTV, and Secretary Benhur Abalos has warned him to surrender immediately for his own good.

Abalos is correct in stating that the gunman’s life was now in danger because whoever ordered the hit will not want him to be captured and made to talk.

Especially where very powerful people are concerned, ordering the killing of the killer is not uncommon as the mere mention of his (or her) name will be costly not just to the mastermind’s reputation, but will most likely lead to the authorities making doubly certain that he (or she) is  charged.

For now, it would be unfair to point an accusing finger at the top officials who were targeted by Lapid’s angry if righteous outbursts,  as what has been happening in social media.

The Marcos administration must insure that justice is served, otherwise the Philippines will continue to have a reputation as one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists to practice their profession.

It should be noted that on the same week that Lapid was killed, yet another broadcaster was violently beaten up by four goons just outside his place of work. The attack happened in Iloilo City, where a police station was less than a mile away.

Luckily, the broadcaster survived and has been given police protection as the case is being investigated.

Lapid’s case is much different. He was a national figure and his voice was silenced with absolute finality.

It is not just justice for the 63-year-old Lapid that his family is crying for. His millions of followers demand it.

We joint that plea: Do not let the mastermind get away with murder.