MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Samuel Martires has fired and indicted for direct bribery and graft the 3 Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials who were accused of extorting P50,000 from a Bilibid inmate in exchange for his early release in what is known as the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) for sale scheme.
Martires dismissed from public office former BuCor documentations chief Ramoncito Roque, as well as Maria Belinda Bansil and Veronica Buño, on top of an indictment for direct bribery and graft.
“This Office finds probable cause to indict the respondents for one count of direct bribery under Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and one count of Violation of Section 3(e) of R.A 3019,” said the resolution approved by Martires on Tuesday, January 28, and released to the media Wednesday morning, on January 29.
The charges against the 3 will be filed before the Muntinlupa Regional Trial Court (RTC), according to the resolution.
The 3 officials were perpetually disqualified from holding public office. Their retirement benefits were forfeited, while their civil service eligibility was canceled.
“In the event that the penalty of dismissal can no longer be enforced due to respondents’ separation from the service, the same shall be converted into a fine in the amount equivalent to their respective last salaries for 1 year, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman,” said a separate decision on their dismissal, also approved by Martires on Tuesday.
GCTA for sale
During the Senate hearing on the GCTA issue last year, whistleblower Yolanda Camilon accused Roque, Bansil and Buño of extorting P50,000 in exchange for the early release of her husband, the Bilibid inmate, based on the GCTA.
Camilon detailed her correspondence and meetings with Bansil and Buño, including the exchange of initial payments. Roque, as documentations chief, would be the one to call the final shots, as alleged by Camilon.
The 3 had denied the allegations.
Roque claimed Camilon and Bansil left an envelope containing money in his house without his knowledge. Referring to this claim, the Ombudsman said, That Roque “never reported the said incident to the authorities” means the claim “cannot be given full faith and credit.”
“The foregoing narration of facts by Camilon proves that respondents conspired with each other to commit the crime of direct bribery against Camilon,” the Ombudsman said.
The 3 will also be charged of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which punishes a public official who acts with “manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence” and which caused “undue injury” to the government.
“Said respondents, conspiring together, acted with evident bad faith, or at the very least, gross inexcusable negligence, when they repeatedly promised several dates for the release of Camilon’s husband in exchange for P50,000,” said the Ombudsman.
The GCTA for sale scandal led to the suspension of many more higher-ups in the BuCor, including its legal chief, and prompted an overhaul of the bureau beginning with the appointment of its current chief, Director General Gerald Bantag.
The Office of the Ombudsman earlier confirmed that its investigation also covered former BuCor chiefs Nicanor Faeldon and Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa.
The GCTA law’s internal rules have been revised to exclude from the benefits all inmates convicted of heinous crimes. As a consequence, thousands of heinous crime convicts previously released were hauled back to a Bilibid underprepared for the volume of returnees.
At least 5 returnees have died since.
A petition challenging the constitutionality of the new internal rules is pending before the Supreme Court.
Several petitions for the writ of habeas corpus demanding the release of some returnees are also pending in different courts. – Rappler.com