5 BuCor men charged over Leviste escape

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2011 04:35 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2011 03:51 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has formally charged 5 officials and personnel of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in connection with the escape of New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) inmate and former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste last May 18.

Chief Superintendent Ramon Reyes, Chief Superintendent Armando Miranda, Bureau Reservation and Support Services(BRSS) Chief Dante Cruz, Police Senior Inspector Roberto Rabo and Police Senior Inspector Fortunato Justo were individually administratively charged before the DOJ.

All 5 were charged with grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service in separate Formal Charge sheets issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima dated July 25, 2011 but released to the media only today.

In a news conference this afternoon, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III bared respondents will be placed on preventive suspension for 90 days upon receipt of their respective Formal Charge, consistent with Section 19 of the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.

Baraan said the five were issued show cause orders to explain to Secretary De Lima why they should not be administratively sanctioned for the incident, but failed to convince the justice chief.

"They already submitted their explanation and the secretary found the existence of probable cause to proceed with the formal investigation against the five," Baraan said.

In the Formal Charge against Reyes, de Lima said: "As Superintendent of the NBP, you failed to exercise you duty when you replaced Chief Miranda as the Chief Superintendent of NBP as you did not cause the cancellation or revocation of the privilege status granted to inmate Leviste despite receiving reports of inmate Leviste's out-of-jail trips. Futhermore, you also failed to lay down appropriate security measures to prevent the happening of the escape incident."

In the Formal Charge against Miranda, De Lima pointed out the following reasons why he should be administratively charged:

1) he was the one who gave the instruction for the submission of a letter-request for the transfer of Leviste to the Agro Section from the medium security compound, and approved the said transfer along with the "sleep-out privilege;"
2) he approved the transfer of eight(8) other inmates, through improper channels, to the Agro Section "to become the 'assistants' of inmate Leviste thereat notwithstanding that the letter-request therefor was made by PGI Justo, who is not the proper authority to do the same;"
3) he approved the transfer of the conduct of physical headcount of the nine(9) inmates, including Leviste, from the Minimum Security Compound to the BRSS or at the Agro Section, and allowed that it be conducted only thrice a day as against existing rules and regulations that state it should be done four(4) times daily;
4) he did not cancel Leviste's "sleep-out" privilege "despite reports of the latter's alleged escapes; and
5) he did not establish counter-measures to prevent possible abuses and escapes by inmates.

As for Cruz, De Lima said he neglected his duty as then Chief of the Minimum Security compound, who exercises supervisory power and control over inmates under his responsibility, when he recommended for approval that Leviste need not report to the Minimum Security Compound for the required physical headcount, and by reducing the number of headcount to three(3) times only.

As far as Rabo is concerned, De Lima said he failed to take immediate action upon knowing that Leviste was violating prison rules and regulations.

As Chief of the Minimum Security Compound De Lima said Rabo "should have recommended the cancellation or revocation of the 'sleep-out' privilege granted to inmate Leviste."

De Lima also said Rabo did not take the proper course of action given his position and authority when he merely gave verbal instructions to a subordinate to inform Leviste about reports of his alleged capers.

As for Leviste's personal custodian, Justo, De Lima said he failed to fully discharge his duties as the custodian of Leviste.

"As the custodian of inmate Leviste, you, at the very least, grossly neglected your duties when inmate Leviste escaped. You certainly was nowhere near Leviste when the latter escaped. Your testimony before the [fact-finding] Panel runs counter to the incident report, which casts doubt on the veracity of your claim that you were not remiss in the performance of his duties," De Lima told Justo in his Formal Charge.

"Despite instruction from Chief Rabo for you to immediately report to Director Diokno in the evening of 18 May 2011, you did not comply with the directive for reasons only known to you. You only appeared before Director [Ernesto] Diokno the following day, long after the discovery of inmate Leviste's escape," the Formal Charge read.

Justo will also be criminally charged with infidelity in the custody of service before the Muntinlupa Prosecutors Office.

Meantime, De Lima issued Department Order No. 665 dated August 2, 2011 formally designating a panel for the formal investigation of the five BuCor officials and personnel.

Named as panel members and hearing officers are State Counsel Amenda Leano-Garcia and Attorneys V Rafael Villanueva and Amelia Ponio.

As for resigned BuCor Director Diokno, no administrative charges may be filed against him because he is no longer in government service.