Lawmakers favor placing ex-warden Gerald Bantag as BuCor Chief

Marje Pelayo   •   September 18, 2019   •   437

Newly appointed Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag

MANILA, Philippines – Newly appointed Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag was personally handpicked by President Rodrigo Duterte to replace former chief Nicanor Faeldon.

Bantag is the former Regional Director of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) MIMAROPA.

The President was vocal about his trust in the former jail warden to lead the controversy-laden agency.

This, despite the case he is facing in relation to the blast in Parañaque City Jail in 2016 where 10 inmates were killed.

Bantag was the jail warden on duty when the incident happened.

“Well, I think the case is in court. He’s facing homicide charges. I don’t think that he did it. If he did, then baka ma-convict siya (he could be convicted),” President Rodrigo Duterte said.

“But in the meantime, gusto ko siya kasi nagtatapon ng granada daw. Gusto ko ngang magkuha ng santo wala naman, ganun rin. Magkuha ng military, wala. Dito ka sa talagang may experience sa BJMP (In the meantime, I want him in because I heard, he launches grenade. I was looking for a saint but I couldn’t find anyone. I searched the military but none [qualified]. So (I) picked the one with experience in BJMP). That’s a bureau under the DILG and you — you take care of detention prisoners,” he added.

Senator Bong Go, meanwhile, clarified that it was not him who recommended Bantag even though the President mentioned that he was picking a “killer” as the next BuCor chief due to the mounting issues of illegal drugs inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

“Killer pala siya? Personal choice po ni Presidente si Bantag. Kailangan na talagang linisin ang BuCor (Was he a killer? Bantag is the President’s personal choice. The BuCor needs some cleansing),” Go said.

For Senator Vicente Sotto III, the Court is yet to prove the homicide case against Bantag and so it is just right to place the likes of Bantag inside the BuCor to tame the inmates.

“Tignan natin kung kakayanin ng mga drug lord ngayon yan, matitigil ang kabulastugan ngayon doon (Let’s see if those drug lords can go against him. Their shenanigans will be over),” Sotto added.

Go also revealed that President Duterte offered the position to AFP Chief of Staff General Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde but the two refused the offer. – MNP (with reports from Grace Casin)

Palace: Duterte to take a 3-day break

Aileen Cerrudo   •   November 11, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte will be having a three-day break beginning Tuesday (November 12), according to Malacañang.

However, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Monday (November 11) clarified that it will not be an official leave since the president will still be doing his paperwork. The president will fly home to Davao Monday night.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will be the officer-in-charge of the Executive branch while Duterte rests, according to Panelo

“Well upon the advice of friends, of colleagues, and the world, it seems. And most likely upon the advice of doctors also to take a respite from his punishing schedule,” he said.

Panelo clarified there are no medical concerns that prompted the three-day break.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

BuCor restores visitation privileges for Bilibid inmates

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 30, 2019

Members of the Police Special Action Force frisk inmates following a peace accord event to stop violence amongst gangs inside the New ‘Bilibid’ Prison’s maximum security compound in Muntinlupa city, south of Manila, Philippines, 27 December 2018. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has restored visitation privileges at New Bilibid Prison on Wednesday (October 30), almost a month after it was suspended.

BuCor already posted the schedule for each quadrant. They also said there will be no visitation allowed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

“Visitors will be subjected to the usual body frisking, strip searching if necessary and inspection of all bags and belongings prior to entry to any corrections facilities,” according to BuCor.

Visitation privileges were temporarily suspended on October 9 due to ‘safety reasons’ when BuCor demolished the kubol or shanties illegally built inside the Bilibid.—AAC

VP Robredo keeps mum on Duterte’s offer to be drug czar

Marje Pelayo   •   October 29, 2019

Vice President Leni Robredo

MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Leni Robredo chose not to react on the recent challenge set by President Rodrigo Duterte offering her the position of a drug czar and lead the government’s anti-drug campaign.

READ: Duterte wants to commission Robredo as drug czar for 6 months

Duterte on Monday (October 28) publicly announced that he would surrender his law enforcement power to Robredo so she could prove herself by solving the country’s problems on illegal drugs in a span of six months.

Robredo said Duterte’s remarks could have been an outburst of emotions just like many times in the past.

“Ayokong mag-comment hanggat wala pa (I don’t want to comment while [the letter] isn’t here yet),” Robredo said.

Natuto na ako. Marami ng beses in the past (na) mayroong sinasabi na hindi naman mini-mean. May imbitasyon na babawiin. So, hintayin muna natin,” she added.

(I have learned my lesson. There were many times in the past wherein he would say something but didn’t really mean it. He would send invitations which he would later take back. So, let’s wait for now.)

With these developments, opposition lawmaker Albay 1st Rep. Edcel Lagman alleged that the President is “washing his hands of his failed brutal war on drugs, and is tossing the narcotics problem for Vice President Leni Robredo to solve.”

Liberal Party senator Kiko Pangilinan, meanwhile, teased the President for giving Robredo only six months when he himself couldn’t arrest ‘big fishes’ in illegal drugs operation in the country.

“Six months? Sila nga tatlong taon nang nakaupo, wala pa ring nahuhuling drug lord or ikinukulong na opisyal ng BoC sa tone-toneladang pinalusot na shabu sa Customs,” Pangilinan argued.

(Six months? They themselves have been in power for three years and they have yet to arrest a drug lord or put in jail a Bureau of Customs official for the tons of shabu that slipped past customs.)

“Iyong mga ninja cops na sangkot sa iligal na droga binigyan pa ng pinakamataas na pwesto sa PNP. Hindi naman patas ang usapan kapag 6 months lang. Dapat maging patas. Gawing 3 years para fair,” he added.

(Those ninja cops implicated in illegal drugs trade were even promoted to higher positions in the PNP. The deal wouldn’t be fair with only six months. They should be fair. Give [Robredo] three years to be fair.)

Duterte ally House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said if Robredo would accept the President’s challenge, she should present a concrete plan of action to do it.

“(What’s that) health-based approach (that they say) when it comes to enforcement and when it comes to methamphetamine?” Cayetano said of Robredo’s proposed strategy.

Kung may baril ang kaharap mo na nagbebenta ng droga at nandoon sa school at hinuli ng pulis, anong gagawin ng pulis, sabihin, ‘Pare, mag vitamins ka muna? (If the person you are apprehending for selling drugs in school has a gun, what do you think the police should do? Should they tell him: Take some vitamins first?),” he added.

But for former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, it would be better for President Duterte to fully relinquish his presidency instead of just challenging Robredo.

“Why not just surrender the presidency by resigning,” the opposition lawyer said.

But despite the headlines, former chief of police now Senator Panfilo Lacson stressed that the President, being the top authority in the land, holds the highest power over the country’s law enforcement officials.

When asked if he believes the President’s intention was to annoy Robredo, Lacson said it wasn’t sarcasm “but more of an expression of irritation and disgust.”

He added that: “Unless he delegates a blanket authority, including the power to hire and fire, no one else in the government bureaucracy can do it better than the chief executive under any given circumstances.”

“At best, it’s half meant,” the senator concluded. – MNP (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

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