5 corrections officers accuse Bantag of torture

Johnson Manabat, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2023 02:23 PM | Updated as of Jan 20 2023 02:46 PM

MANILA — Suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag is facing another complaint.

At least 5 corrections officers from the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Palawan have accused the embattled official of torture, which allegedly happened in March 2020.

Together with lawyers from the BuCor, Corrections Officer 2 Richie Canja, Lazaro Rafols Jr., Jer Sahid Mojado, Eddie Jimenez Jr., and Roy Gasaca. on Friday personally appeared at the Department of Justice to file a complaint against Bantag for supposedly violating the Anti-Torture Law.

"Diumano itong mga complainants, sinunog nila 'yung alpha — meaning asset ng BuCor about the operation on drugs. Pero sabi nila hindi naman," BuCor's legal counsel Atty. Mauricio Ulep said.

"Dahil do'n sa insidente na 'yun pinagbubugbog itong mga complainant." 

Canja, one of the complainants, said that the alleged physical abuse by Bantag was made worse when their families were dragged into the issue.

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"Ang nangyari lahat ng pananakit, lahat ng masasakit na salita sa amin lang ibinigay… 'yung mga tao na hindi gumawa sa amin ng maganda nandiyan pinanonood kami. Masakit sa parte namin yun, okay lang sana kung kami lang eh pero yung isama pati yung pamilya namin… Gusto n'yo pagdudukutin ko mga pamilya ninyo at 'yung mga asawa ninyo... ko sa harap ninyo?" he recounted.

Bantag has yet to comment on the latest accusation against him.

Aside from Bantag, respondents in the complaint include Jail Supt. Ricardo Zulueta, former BuCor spokesman Gabriel Chaclag, and 9 others.

The complainants said they only spoke about the alleged torture now because of fear of retribution when Bantag was still in power.

Bantag 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. 

He was suspended again for allowing a television channel to interview convicted General Jovita Palparan while serving time at the New Bilibid Prison.

—with a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News