MANILA - Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima on Wednesday slammed President Rodrigo Duterte’s choice of a former jail official with pending homicide charges as the new chief of the Bureau of Corrections.
Duterte on Tuesday announced the appointment of Gerald Bantag, a former warden at the Parañaque City Jail, as the new BuCor chief.
The president picked Bantag to replace Nicanor Faeldon, following alleged anomalies surrounding the granting of good conduct time allowance for prisoners.
Bantag, it turned out, is facing homicide charges over a 2016 blast at the Parañaque City Jail where 10 detainees, mostly facing drug-related charges, died.
De Lima said BuCor wants to institute sweeping reforms, Bantag is not the right person to lead the controversy-hit agency as he is “valued more for his willingness to resort to violence and murder than his competence.”
“If he was willing to commit murder then, he would be even more willing now. Especially since it is Duterte who controls his destiny. Duterte can make his cases go away in exchange for his unquestioning loyalty,” De Lima said in a statement.
“With him at the helm, we can expect more senseless killings and zero progress towards reforms. Sen. Bong Go wanted a killer at the BuCor helm, and his boss made it happen.”
But Malacanang said Duterte made the right choice.
"In her own imagination siguro, I agree. When you’re in jail, your imagination runs wild," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, backed Duterte’s choice of Bantag as BuCor chief.
“I'd rather have someone like Bantag rather than an angel as BuCor chief. Tingnan natin kung kakayanin ng mga drug lord ngayon yan. Matitigil ang kabulastugan doon,” Sotto told reporters.
(I’d rather have someone like Bantag rather than an angel as BuCor chief. Let’s see if the drug lords can stand up to him. Their misbehaviors will be over.)
Go, Duterte’s former close-aide, said several retiring army and police generals were recommended for the BuCor post but “there were no takers.”
“Ayaw nila. Alam mo bakit? Nandyan ang tatlong elemento ng krimen na nangyari dyan, droga, korapsyon at kriminalidad nasa loob ng BuCor,” Go told reporters.
(They don’t want it. You know why? Drugs, corruptions and crimes are affecting BuCor.)
“Ang hirap linisin niyan. Hinahamon ko po si Bantag alam kong kaya mong linisin iyan, alam kong kaya mong disiplinahin ang mga tao dyan. Tulungan mo po ang Pilipinas.”
(BuCor is so hard to clean. I challenge Bantag, I know you can clean up BuCor. I know you can instill discipline among its people. Help the Philippines.)
Bantag assumes the leadership of the BuCor 2 days before President Duterte's deadline for heinous crime convicts released early under the controversial good conduct time allowance (GCTA) policy to surrender or risk being considered as fugitives.
Some 2,000 heinous-crime convicts have been released since 2014 under the GCTA law, which reduces an inmate’s sentence due to good conduct, igniting public uproar and official scrutiny of the law. - With reports from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News