By Genalyn Kabiling
Newly designated Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag is presumed innocent until proven guilty of the homicide charges filed against him, President Duterte said Tuesday.
The President defended the appointment of Bantag to lead the BuCor, saying he believes the jail official could clean up the BuCor system despite facing criminal complaints.
“Well, I think the case is in court. He’s facing homicide charges. I don’t think that he did it. If he did, then baka ma-convict siya. But in the meantime, gusto ko siya kasi nagtatapon ng granada daw [I like him because he supposedly throws grenades],” he said during a press conference in the Palace.
“He was accused of killing several, prisoners, granada daw. But I think there was a commotion there and he was charged for the crime of murder. But it was downgraded to homicide,” he said.
“And since there is no conviction yet, in obedience to the rule of the presumption of innocence, I gave him a new job,” he added.
Duterte said he could not find a “saint” to lead the BuCor so he picked an experienced official from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) instead.
“Kasi sinong ibigay mo pati si santo — gusto ko ngang magkuha ng santo wala naman, ganun rin. Magkuha ng military, wala. O dito ka sa talagang may experience sa BJMP. [I wanted a saint but I found none. I wanted to get from the military but there’s none. So I might as well pick a person with BJMP experience]. That’s a bureau under the DILG and you — you take care of detention prisoners,” he said.
Malacañang earlier announced the designation of Bantag as new Bucor head due to his competence and integrity. Bantag takes the place of Nicanor Faeldon who was sacked by the President for defying his order against the controversial release of heinous crime convicts for good conduct.
Prior to his appointment, Bantag served as regional director of the BJMP-Mimaropa region.
Bantag was the jail warden when a deadly explosion hit the Parañaque City Jail in 2016. He was among those hurt but still faced criminal charges for the blast that left 10 inmates dead.
Duterte said the new BuCor chief must guard the prisoners and prevent any jailbreak.
“Siya man ang — siya man ang taga-BJMP, so alam niya. (The) marching order is to guard so that they will not escape. That’s why it’s a penitentiary,” he said.
On the anomalies hounding the BuCor, Duterte hopes that new head will not commit the same irregularities.
“He knows his business. ‘Yung lahat na nangyari, huwag mong gawin, ‘yun lang. All the things that you have observed along the way, all the things that are being obnoxious or repugnant to the public, huwag mong gawin,” he said.