Bantag named new BuCor chief
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday appointed former Manila City Jail warden Gerald Bantag to head the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), saying he could not find a “saint” to run the scandal-ridden agency.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President’s choice was based on Bantag’s “professional competence and honesty.”
Bantag will replace Nicanor Faeldon, whom the President fired in August for disobeying his order to halt the release of heinous crime convicts, including a former town mayor who had been convicted in the rape and murder of a university student and the murder of her friend in 1993.
Before his appointment, Bantag was Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) director for Mimaropa.
Warden of 5 jails
He had served as warden of the city jails of Parañaque, Manila, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela.
A background check showed Bantag faced a number of cases, but the status of these cases were unclear as of press time on Tuesday night.
In August 2007, Bantag was charged with attempted murder in the Caloocan City prosecutor’s office for allegedly trying to kill a teenager.
Bantag, then warden of the Navotas City Jail, denied the charges and said he was willing to submit his service firearm for ballistic tests. He also said he was willing to undergo a polygraph test.
In January 2014, he was charged in the Malabon City prosecutor’s office for allegedly not paying a restaurant bill and illegally firing his gun.
In October 2017, a Parañaque City court issued warrants for the arrest of Bantag and two other officials of the city jail for murder in connection with a grenade blast in his office that killed 10 inmates, including two Chinese nationals, on the night of Aug. 11, 2016.
A police investigation showed that negligence on the part of Bantag and his men had led to the explosion.
The inmates wanted to talk to Bantag about his plan to move them to other cells for a search of the three-story jail for contraband.
The investigators found that jail personnel did not even frisk the inmates before allowing them into Bantag’s office.
The explosion’s aftermath showed that the inmates were in possession of not just contraband, but also combat weapons, including a grenade and a submachine gun.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday night, the President said the Paranaque jail blast had been downgraded from murder to homicide but the case had not yet been resolved.
“Since there is no conviction yet, in obedience to the rule of the presumption of innocence, I gave him a new job,” he said.
“I want to get a saint, but there’s no one like that. Get a military guy, nothing. Then let’s try this one with experience in the [Bureau of Jail Management],” he added.
The President said his instruction to Bantag was to rid the BuCor of corruption.
The Senate is investigating corruption in the BuCor, including the sale of good conduct time allowance to prisoners and of passes to the New Bilibid Prison infirmary where convicted drug lords trade illegal drugs. —With a report from Dexter Cabalza
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