Bantag undergoes probe anew

The Department of Justice clarified on Friday that the new suspension order slapped against suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag was primarily to investigate him for violation of BuCor rules.

According to DoJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano, the new suspension is in connection with Bantag’s alleged authorization to allow the interview of
ex-Major Gen. Jovito Palparan inside the New Bilibid Prison.

“At that point, it was the former DG’s prerogative to allow the network to interview. What is being investigated are the shortcuts he made in violation of the BuCor rules,” said Clavano.

The 90-day suspension was slapped against Bantag for authorizing Apollo Quiboloy’s SMNI Network to interview Palparan, who was serving time after being convicted for the kidnapping of two University of the Philippines students in 2006.

The order said that Bantag’s suspension is “to prevent him of exerting undue influence or pressure on the witnesses…” while the administrative investigation into the incident involving the Palparan interview is ongoing.

Based on the formal charge signed by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on 17 January, Bantag granted SMNI an interview with Palparan on 30 March 2022 inside the Overseer’s Office at the Minimum Security Compound of the NBP without complying with the BuCor Operating Manual and a department circular on the approval of PDL interviews.

The formal charge is for grave misconduct and neglect in the performance of duties for failure to observe the procedure and guidelines in the approval of requests and conduct of interviews with PDLs.
Bantag was given 10 days from receipt to submit his answer.

Earlier, Bantag was suspended over the death of the middleman Cristito Villamor in the Percy Lapid slay case.

The kill order against broadcaster Lapid was allegedly issued by Villamor to self-confessed gunman Joel Escorial.

Then Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, now Solicitor General, said prison rules like media access to inmates may have been violated when Palparan was interviewed by then Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy.

”Relevant rules under the manual of operations of the BuCoR were not properly observed,” said Guevarra.

“Rules on media access of PDLs (persons deprived of liberty), especially high-profile PDLs, which require the authorization of the justice secretary and also observance of reasonable conditions, such as no discussion of any pending cases before the media,” he added.

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