Justice Secretary orders probe into former corrections officer’s killing, videos from crime scene ‘defective’

Frederic Santos. Photo: ABS-CBN News
Frederic Santos. Photo: ABS-CBN News

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra yesterday ordered an investigation into the killing of former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officer Frederic Santos, an official who accused of allowing the questionable early release of prisoners.

In a memo sent to the National Bureau of Investigation, Guevarra ordered them to “conduct an investigation and case build-up” on the killing of Santos, the Philippine Star reports. Should there be sufficient evidence, Guevarra said the bureau “should file appropriate charges against persons found responsible” for the crime.

Guevarra told GMA News that Santos’ death may have to do with the allegations that surfaced in September that the BuCor had been engaged in a “pay for freedom” scheme, where high-profile inmates could bribe prison officials to have their sentences shortened. However, the investigation into his killing might prove difficult because the CCTV clips acquired from the crime scene were reportedly blurry. Muntinlupa Police Chief Col. Hermogenes Cabe told radio station DZMM that the footage from the area was “defective.”

A former prison guard who rose through the ranks, Santos told senators in an investigation that systemic corruption plagues the BuCor, where prisoners can get away with anything as long as they pay off the officers. A senator said that Santos was prepared to divulge more details about the alleged irregularities going on at the BuCor, but he changed his mind at the last minute.

The “pay for freedom” allegations surfaced when it was announced that former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a convicted rapist and murderer, was about to be freed due to Republic Act No. 10592, which cuts down prisoners’ terms for good behavior while incarcerated. However, rumors swirled that some big-time prisoners, such as Sanchez, unfairly benefited from the law because they bribed BuCor officials. Sanchez’s release was canceled because of the controversy, and thousands of convicts who were freed because of the law had to return to prison even if if it was never proven that they bribed officials.

News of Santos’ death prompted Senator Richard Gordon to remark yesterday that there is a “culture of killing” surrounding the BuCor, due to the fact that Santos was the 15th BuCor official to have been killed since 2011.

“These people really have no fear. It is a rub-out. It is a warning to all in this country that if you know something and then talk, ‘We can kill you.’ Why?  All of these people who are killed in Muntinlupa, their cases remain unsolved. I have yet to know of a solved case,” Gordon told The Philippine Daily Inquirer.

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