27 prison officials suspended over early releases as Sanchez fallout continues

<i>Photo: ABS-CBN News</i>
Photo: ABS-CBN News

Less than a week after prisons chief Nicanor Faeldon was forced to step down, another 27 heads have rolled — at least temporarily — amid ongoing public anger over improper early releases for those convicted of heinous crimes.

The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday announced the suspension of 27 Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials for six months without pay, effective immediately, for their involvement in a number of questionable releases under the controversial Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

The accused officials will be charged with grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, reported ABS-CBN News. 

Those suspended included BuCor documents section chief Ramoncito Roque and Correctional Senior Inspector Mabel Bansil, the duo last week accused of extortion by Yolanda Camilon, the domestic partner of an inmate named Godfrey Gamboa.

Camilon alleged at a Thursday Senate hearing that Bansil asked for PHP50,000 (USD 962.802) in exchange for her partner’s early release, money that she then handed over to Roque. When her partner’s allegedly promised release never came, however, Camilon asked the two officials to return her money, something they refused to do.

Both Roque and Bansil have denied they extorted money from Camilon in exchange for Gamboa’s early release. But Senator Richard Gordon, who led the Senate committee inquiry said yesterday that they were “obviously” lying, citing the fact that phone records investigators were seeking had been conveniently deleted before they could get their hands on them.

Others among the  27 suspended were Senior Superintendents Celso Bravo and Melencio Faustino, both of whom led the Directorate for Security and Operations; and Senior Superintendent Wilfredo Bayona, deputy superintendent of the New Bilbid Prison South Maximum Security Compound.

The mass suspensions are just the latest development in the controversy surrounding the GCTA law, which led to the early release of almost 2,000 prisoners convicted of heinous crimes since 2014, despite their ineligibility.

Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte called on the convicts who were erroneously released for “good behavior” to turn themselves in within 15 days, or else be considered fugitives. He also demanded Faeldon’s resignation, though he softened the blow a bit when he said he still believes the former prison boss to be an upright individual, Rappler reported.

The notorious former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez was on the brink of freedom last month when the Justice Department and the BuCor announced he was scheduled to be released, a plan that was eventually shelved due to widespread public outrage.

Sanchez is serving seven life sentences for torturing and murdering college students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1993.

Read: Wait, What? Corrections Chief says killer ex-Mayor Sanchez might not be freed soon after all 

Meanwhile, former BuCor chief and current Senator Rolando “Bato” dela Rosa today went on the offense to defend the Bureau from criticism.

In an interview on news cable show ANC Headstart, he asked “Why pin the blame on us? We only implement the law. We don’t make the law.”

Added Dela Rosa: “We are the waiters. The lawmakers, they are the chefs.”

Added Coconuts Manila: “The Philippines deserves better.”

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