MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte appointed ex-Parañaque City Jail warden Gerald Bantag as the new Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director-general, announced Malacañang on Tuesday, September 17.
"The Palace welcomes the appointment of Mr Gerald Quitaleg Bantag as the new Director-General of the Bureau of Corrections," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement.
Bantag faces 10 counts of murder for a deadly explosion at the Parañaque City Jail when he was its warden. The grenade explosion in August 2016 killed 10 inmates, including two Chinese nationals accused of drug-related crimes.
A Parañaque City court had even issued an arrest warrant against Bantag.
He had also previously been Manila City Jail warden.
Duterte, in an interview with reporters on Tuesday, said he is aware of the murder charges against Bantag, but said the charges were downgraded to homicide and the case remains pending.
"Crime of murder, but it was downgraded to homicide and since there is no conviction yet, in obedience to the rule of the presumption of innocence, I gave him a new job," said Duterte.
The President said he himself thinks Bantag is innocent.
"I don't think that he did it, if he did then baka ma-convict siya (he can get convicted), but in the meantime, gusto ko siya (I like him)," said Duterte.
"Maski sino ibigay mo, maski santo, gusto ko nga magkuha ng santo, wala naman, ganoon pa rin. Magkuha ka ng military, wala," he said.
(Whoever you put there, even a saint, even I wanted to get a saint but nothing changed. Even if you get a military man, nothing.)
"O dito ka sa talagang may experience sa BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology), that's a bureau under the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and you take care of detention prisoners," Duterte continued.
Senator Bong Go had hinted last September 11 that he had recommended to Duterte that he appoint a "killer" as new BuCor director-general. Go did not tell media who he had recommended.
On Tuesday, Go said: "Choice po ni Pangulong Duterte si Bantag. Personal choice niya 'yan at respetuhin natin. Nasabi ko lang sa kanya noon na kailangan natin ng killer diyan para linisin. Pero 'di ko alam na si Bantag 'yung napili niya."
(Bantag is President Duterte's choice. That's his personal choice and we should respect it. I only told him before that we need a killer in BuCor to clean up the bureau. But I didn't know that he had chosen Bantag.)
Panelo said Bantag was appointed "based on his professional competence and honesty."
Bantag replaces embattled Nicanor Faeldon. The top BuCor position had been filled temporarily by Melvin Buenafe, appointed officer-in-charge by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
But according to Republic Act No. 10575 or the BuCor Act of 2013, the director-general must be endorsed by the Civil Service Commission (CSC).
According to Section 12 of the law, the BuCor director-general is "appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the DOJ, with the proper endorsement by the Chairman of the CSC." – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.