Bantag’s 1st preventive suspension was supposed to lapse Thursday, January 19
MANILA — Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla has suspended anew already suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag, this time for allowing a television channel to interview convicted General Jovita Palparan while serving time at the New Bilibid Prison.
In a department order dated January 17, Remulla placed Bantag “under preventive suspension without pay for a period of ninety (90) days, effective immediately” upon receipt of the order.
The reason cited was to preclude the possibility of exerting influence or pressure on the witnesses against him or the tampering of documentary evidence in his office in connection with a new administrative charge for “grave misconduct and neglect in the performance of duty” which Remulla himself signed on the same date.
Bantag has not been reporting to his office since October last year, after he was placed on a 90-day preventive suspension by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. following the death of Bilibid inmate Jun Villamor, an alleged middleman in the killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.
The first preventive suspension was announced on October 21 and the 90-day period was set to expire on Thursday, January 19.
According to the new formal administrative charge, Bantag granted Sonshine Media Network International’s (SMNI) interview with Palparan on March 30, 2022 inside the Overseer's Office at the Minimum Security Compound of Bilibid without complying with the procedure and guidelines in the approval of requests for and the conduct of interviews with inmates or persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
Specifically, Bantag supposedly violated certain provisions of the BuCor Operating Manual and a 2017 department circular on approval of interviews with PDLs.
“Respondent is hereby directed to file his answer, under oath, in relation to the above-mentioned charges, within ten (10) days upon receipt hereof,” the formal charge said, a copy of which was sent to Bantag’s residential address in Caloocan City.
Remulla warned that any request for clarification or motions to dismiss “designed to delay the administrative proceedings shall be considered an answer” and failure to file an answer will be treated as a waiver.
In June last year, then out-going Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra already said the manual of operations of the BUCOR was not properly observed in Palparan's SMNI interview and he gave Bantag 10 days to explain why he should not be sanctioned.
There was no information however if Bantag submitted an explanation.
Palparan was interviewed live for 2 hours by SMNI on March 30, 2022, where he sought to discredit his September 2018 conviction for the 2006 kidnapping and serious illegal detention of 2 University of the Philippines students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan.
During the interview, Palparan claimed the law was “twisted” so a kidnapping case could be filed against him.
Among those who interviewed Palparan was anti-insurgency task force spokesperson Lorraine Badoy, who said they wanted to “vindicate” Palparan and “show the Filipino people the harm that the CPP-NPA-NDF has done to us as a people.”
Badoy also accused Karapatan of being lawyers of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Karapatan is not a lawyers’ group.
It was the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) that represented the UP students’ families and secured Palparan’s conviction in a Malolos, Bulacan court on Sept. 17, 2018. He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years in prison.
NUPL immediately condemned the interview and filed a motion before the Court of Appeals, which is hearing Palparan’s appeal, to cite him, Badoy, and SMNI in contempt of court for violating the sub judice rule which prohibits the discussion of the merits of the case to avoid influencing the outcome.
NUPL also asked the appellate court to order BuCor to move Palparan to the maximum security facility.
Gerald Bantag, DOJ, Department of Justice, Bureau of Corrections, BuCor, Jesus Crispin Remulla, preventive suspension, Jovito Palparan, SMNI, New Bilibid Prison, ANC, ANC promo