THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has extended the preventive suspension of embattled Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag for another 90 days.
The new suspension order, according to Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla, was intended to prevent Bantag from “exerting undue influence or pressure on the witnesses” or “tampering of documentary evidence” pending his administrative investigation for the charges of grave misconduct and neglect in the performance of duty.
The new suspension stemmed from the ongoing investigation by the justice department in connection with the March 30, 2021 interview conducted by the Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) with former Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
Palparan is serving his jail sentence of 40 years in connection with the disappearance of two University of the Philippines students in 2006.
The DOJ said the said media interview was conducted without complying with Section 4, Chapter 3, Part IV of the BuCor Operating Manual on the process of approval of requests for persons deprived of liberty (PDL) interview; Sections 3,4,5 (d) and 8, Chapter 3, part IV of the BuCor Operating Manual on the proper procedure/guidelines in regard to the conduct of PDL interviews; and Department Circular No. 015 dated January 27,2017, on the required approval prior to the conduct of PDL interviews.
Remulla directed Bantag to answer the administrative charges within 10 days, upon receipt of the complaint.
“In view of the foregoing, any request for clarification, bills of particulars, or motions to dismiss which are obviously designed to delay the administrative proceedings shall be considered as an answer and shall be evaluated as such,” Remulla said.
“Failure on the respondent’s part to submit his answer within the prescribed period shall be construed as a waiver thereof, and this Department shall, immediately conduct the formal investigation upon notice of the scheduled date of hearing,” he added.
It can be recalled that on January 17, 2023, Remulla placed Bantag under preventive suspension pending his investigation over the death of Jun Villamor, the alleged “middleman” in the killing of broadcaster Percy Mabasa, also known as Percy Lapid, last October 13 in Las Piñas City.
He was replaced by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang Jr., who was appointed as officer-in-charge of BuCor.
Bantag was eventually charged with murder along with BuCor deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta and several PDLs in connection with Lapid and Jun Villamor’s killings.
Bantag and Zulueta were charged as principals by inducement in the killing of Lapid and as principals for Villamor’s death.