Bureau of Corrections

Bantag faces new suspension over SMNI interview with Palparan

Jairo Bolledo
Bantag faces new suspension over SMNI interview with Palparan

RALLY. Suspended Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag waves to supporters during a rally in Baguio City, December 9, 2022.

Sherwin de Vera/Rappler

The new 90-day suspension of Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag comes seven months after the Department of Justice found lapses in BuCor's approval of the SMNI interview with Jovito Palparan

MANILA, Philippines – Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag was handed another suspension for allowing Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI) to interview retired general and convicted kidnapper Jovito Palparan inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). 

In an order issued on Tuesday, January 17, but sent to reporters on Thursday, January 19, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said the suspended BuCor chief faces an administrative investigation for grave misconduct and neglect in the performance of duty.

According to the justice department, Bantag allegedly committed the following violations when he allowed SMNI, owned by fugitive preacher Apollo Quiboloy, to interview Palparan:

  • Failure to observe the rules on the process of approval of requests for interviews with persons deprived of liberty (PDLs)
  • Failure to observe the rules in conducting interviews with PDLs
  • Failure to comply with the DOJ’s Department Circular No. 15 signed in 2017 (amended BuCor manual)

Bantag’s new suspension is for 90 days without pay and took effect immediately. He was ordered to file his response to the administrative charges within 10 days.

Rappler has asked the DOJ whether SMNI would have any liabilities if it is proven that the interview violated BuCor rules. The justice department has yet to respond as of writing.

Bantag was already suspended as early as October 2022 for the deaths of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and inmate Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in Lapid’s killing.

Aside from criminal complaints in relation to the deaths of Lapid and Villamor, Bantag is also facing another set of both criminal and administrative complaints for allegedly stabbing gang leaders inside the national penitentiary.

What happened?

Based on the DOJ’s memorandum, SMNI sent a letter of request to interview Palparan on November 15, 2021, and Bantag approved the request. Over four months later, on March 30, 2022, SMNI conducted the interview at the NBP’s Minimum Security Compound.

After the airing of the SMNI interview, the DOJ launched a probe because Palparan was supposedly interviewed without the knowledge of prosecutors and the court.

In April 2022, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers filed a petition before the Court of Appeals to hold in contempt of court those behind the interview.

The justice department then said in June 2022 that based on its initial investigation, there were lapses when BuCor allowed the SMNI interview with Palparan.

Palparan was convicted of kidnapping and serious illegal detention over the disappearance of students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.