Lawmakers favor placing ex-warden Gerald Bantag as BuCor Chief

Marje Pelayo   •   September 18, 2019   •   975

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)

Duterte to announce final decision on reduced physical distancing in public transport

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 16, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte will make his final decision on Thursday (September 17) regarding the reduction of physical distancing in public transportation.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said doctors have opposing opinions on the matter and added that last meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Against COVID-19 even took six hours discussing the issue.

“Ang mga doctor iba-iba rin po ang mga pananaw. Wala pong isang opinyon pagdating dito sa pagbawas ng isang dangkal lang naman na social distancing sa pampublikong mga transportation (Our doctors have varying opinions. There is no unified opinion when it comes to social distancing in public transportation),” he said on Wednesday (September 16) during a press briefing.

Roque also said the IATF based their recommendation to reduce physical distancing on research and advice from doctors.

“Ang rekomendasyon po ay isusumite kay Preisdente. Si Presidente na po ang magde-decide (The recommendation has been submitted to the President and he will be the one to decide), Roque said. AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Duterte approves filing of cases against Morales, et al

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 15, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the filing of charges against former Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) CEO Ricardo Morales and other officials allegedly involved in the ‘mass corruption’ inside the agency.

“The issue of PhilHealth corruption was really an important issue to the Filipinos and to everybody. And everybody again is also placed in jeopardy by the actions of the officials,” the President said.

“I’m sorry for them but you have to undergo trial. Although they can always prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The presumption of innocence still attaches but the report of another agency says otherwise. So ganun ang nangyari sa PhilHealth. Halos lahat sa board,” he added.

Based on the investigation of Task Force PhilHealth, several officials have violations of withholding taxes regarding the interim reimbursement mechanism, graft, and malversion. They will also be facing charges for dishonesty, grave misconduct, disloyalty, gross neglect of duty, inefficiency and incompetence, as well as falsification of public documents.

The officials who will be facing the said charges aside from Morales are Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco Jr., Senior Vice President Jovita Aragona, Officer-in-Charge Calixto Gabuya Jr., Senior Vice President Israel Pargas, Executive Vice President and COO Arnel De Jesus, and Division Chief Bobby Crisostomo.

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who is also leading the Task Force PhilHealth, said they are still continuing their investigation.

“Our composite teams will continue their ongoing investigations and special audits and file legal actions as they finish one case after another,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, PhilHealth released a statement saying the involved officials are prepared to follow the President’s mandate and will cooperate in the process. AAC (with reports from Dante Amento)

BuCor issues release order for Pemberton

Robie de Guzman   •   September 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Thursday issued the release order for convicted killer US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton following President Rodrigo Duterte’s grant of absolute pardon.

The release order signed by BuCor chief Gerald Bantag was then transmitted to the compound of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) inside the Camp Aguinaldo where Pemberton is being detained pursuant to the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Pemberton will be turned over to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) for the process of his deportation.

The BI earlier said the deportation order was issued against Pemberton in 2015 for being an undesirable alien when he was sentenced for the 2014 murder of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude.

Pemberton was convicted of homicide for killing Laude at a motel in Olongapo City in 2014. He was sentenced to serve six to ten years in prison.

Prior to Duterte’s pardon, an Olongapo court had ordered BuCor to recompute the time that Pemberton served and to determine if he is eligible to avail the good conduct time allowance rule.

Foreign nationals who are up for deportation are required to submit clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and regional trial court as proof that they have no more pending criminal or civil cases.

Once these requirements are submitted, the deportee’s flight will then be arranged and scheduled by the BI.

“Depende po yan kung maibibigay kaagad ang NBI clearance, may ticket, sa atin pag mayroo na lahat niyan automatic madali na po yan kasi implementation na lang po mayroon nang departure order. Eh mayroon ng deportation order,” BI acting spokesperson Melvin Mabulac said.

According to Guevarra, the deportation proceedings can be completed by the weekend but Pemberton’s actual date of exit from the country depends on his flight arrangements as he is a military personnel of the US. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Dante Amento)

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