MANILA, Philippines (4rd UPDATE) - Embattled Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno personally tendered his resignation to President Benigno Aquino III on Monday.
Diokno arrived in Malacañan Palace around 1pm and tendered his resignation at around quarter to 2 p.m., ABS-CBN sources said.
Aquino said he has accepted Diokno's resignation.
Asked about the resignation, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said: "Diokno's resignation [is] the most honorable, selfless way to go."
Diokno was in hot water for the escape of New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) inmate Antonio Leviste last May 18, reportedly not the first of the former Batangas governor's several unauthorized trips outside the facility.
Leviste's arrest outside a Makati City building that he owns led to an investigation of the supposed VIP treatment of high-profile inmates in NBP.
Diokno's resignation came ahead of Aquino's action on a Department of Justice(DOJ) fact-finding committee report submitted to Malacanan today.
The contents of the 36-page report, as well as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's 8-page memorandum, have yet to be divulged to the public.
Diokno earlier said he is not to blame for the former Batangas governor's slipping in and out of jail and eventual arrest outside the NBP compound. He said he supervises operations of the NBP as well as 6 other penal colonies nationwide.
"Paniwala ko po di ako dapat sisihin dito. Ako (po) sa policy-making sa opisina. Sad to say, ang opisina (of the BuCor Director) nandoon lang sa NBP," he told a justice department fact-finding panel.
Asked who should take the blame, he said: "The Chief Superintendent...the superintendents of the minimum (security compound), BRSS (Bureau Reservation and Support Services)...Lahat yan dapat maimbestigahan mabuti."
Diokno admitted that he received raw information about Leviste's unauthorized trips outside the prison, but did not cancel his "sleeping-out" privilege despite the information.
Instead, he sent several memos to prison superintendents to report all movements of high-profile inmates inside NBP.
"May raw info na ako na pumupuslit si Leviste. I did a memo to all of superintendents to monitor nila. I am not obligated to guard them. I am in charge of policy-making. I told them that if they didn't implement, they would be charged administratively," he said.
Diokno said he also called for a command conference of the "council of elders," composed of leaders of each brigade, to warn them against leaving the prison without authorization. He said Leviste is a member of the council of elders.
"Sabi ko, 'Governor, itigil niyo na yung paglabas diyan dahil kung kayo ay lumalabas diyan, sa aking administrasyon ay hindi pwede sapagkat dito sa akin ipahuhuli ko kayo at icha-charge ko kayo,'" he recalled telling Leviste.
Asked why he did not cancel Leviste's sleep-out status that allowed him to stay in a reservation outside the minimum security jail, Diokno said: "Yung iba sa kanila pwede hong gawin yan pero sa akin hindi ko pa nakikita. Raw information lang ang dumadating sa akin. Hindi naman niya sinasabing totoo. Wala naman akong kasalanan dahil ang approach natin diyan ay reformation."
He added: "If he attempts to escape and we catch him, then we cancel (sleeping-out privilege). But if we don't catch him doing it, there's no evidence. I would be making a wrong judgment."
Aquino thanks Diokno for 'delicadeza'
In a press briefing in Malacañang, Aquino praised Diokno for his decision to step down from his post.
The President said he understands that diokno inherited many problems that he was trying to solve.
"Naintindihan ko siya bilang kaibigan ko, na naging isang tapat na kaibigan. Siguro naman po kaya makatwiran lang na asahan ko ang kanyang delikadeza nung siya ay magbitiw. Nagkulang, at panahon na namaghanap tayo ng isang makakasulong, sa lalong madaling panahon, given the limitations that we have of the things that have to be done," he added,
The President is optimistic that Diokno's resignation will pave the way for reforms in the prison system.
He said he already has someone in mind to replace Diokno, but he still waiting for that person to accept the position.
"Pinagbigyan ko na muna ng pagkakataon na malaman kung anong papasukan niya. para kung tinaggap niya ay buong buo ang loob niya na kaya niyang gawin ang trabaho," Aquino said.
The Department of Justice panel that investigated Leviste's case had recommended administrative cases against Diokno.
Aquino, however, said the charges have been rendered moot and academic because Diokno has resigned.
He added that Diokno's resignation was the best form of apology to the people and he may even consider appointing him to another post.
"Of course, he is not a spring chicken. He is a retired PNP (Philippine National Police) general. I told him that there is a potential. He has demonstrated 'di ba? 'Yung delicadeza is very important to me. 'Yung hindi makapal 'yung mukha; 'yung hindi kapit-tuko sa pwesto. Hindi makakita ng pagkakamali niya-'pag 'yun 'yung mga dinemonstrate niya, syempre sarado na 'yung pintuan pero he didn't do it. So there is a possibility but obviously not in a similar situation," the President said.
Aquino also hopes that Diokno's resignation sends a clear message, that public interest outweighs whatever relationship he may have with his appointees. - With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News; ANC