MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), under Acting Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr., lodged another set of criminal complaints against suspended corrections chief Gerald Bantag for allegedly torturing inmates at the New Bilibid Prison.
The complaint, filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Friday, January 13, read: “Criminal cases against USEC GERALD Q. BANTAG, the suspended Director General of Bureau of Corrections (BUCOR) for violation of Section 5 (Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishment) of RA 9745 otherwise known as ‘The Anti-Torture Act of 2019’ and two (2) counts of violation of Article 263 of the Revised Penal Code (Serious Physical Injuries).”
Bantag’s “right-hand man,” BuCor superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, is also facing complaints for two counts of alleged obstruction of justice. The BuCor also filed an administrative complaint for alleged grave misconduct against Bantag and Zulueta.
The new set of complaints stemmed from the allegations of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) that they were abused by Bantag inside the national penitentiary. On December 21, 2022, Catapang said Bilibid gang leaders Jonathan Cañete or Jonathan Escopete of Batang Cebu and Ronald Usman of Batang Mindanao gave sworn affidavits detailing how Bantag allegedly stabbed them.
The complaint used “Escopete” as Jonathan’s last name. The BuCor has yet to clarify which one is the correct surname of the gang leader.
Meanwhile, both Bantag and Zulueta are also facing complaints in relation to the deaths of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman who talked to other alleged assailants to kill Lapid. Bantag and Zulueta are being pinned as alleged masterminds behind the death of the two.
These are only few of the long list of controversies hounding the suspended BuCor chief.
Allegations of torture
In the complaint, Catapang gave details of how Bantag allegedly abused the gang leaders.
According to Escopete and Usman, they were summoned by Bantag at the BuCor’s administration building, along with other commanders of the Maximum Security Compound of Bilibid, at around 11:30 am on February 1, 2022. Bantag, who was allegedly under the influence of alcohol, “tortured them and inflicted serious physical injuries” on them.
Usman said Bantag held his right hand and allegedly stabbed his palm using a double-bladed knife. Escopete, meanwhile, said Bantag allegedly slashed his shirt using a Kris knife and pointed it on his chest, “causing it to bleed.”
“He (Escopete) pleaded for mercy and when he could not endure the torture, he tried to hold the point end of the kris knife, but USEC BANTAG stabbed his left thigh,” the complaint read.
As for Zulueta, the gang leaders alleged that the superintendent did not do anything to prevent Bantag. He even gave the victims P50,000 each and “warned them that if they will not accept the money, something bad might happen to them,” the gang leaders said.
Escopete and Usman added that they accepted the money because they had no “recourse” and used it to treat their wounds. – Rappler.com