Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra is doubling down on the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) after a gang brawl in the New Bilibid Prison left 9 dead “and many injured.”
“I want to know how such a violent incident could happen in the wee hours of the morning and last for hours, and why the prison authorities failed to detect and prevent such a huge gang war that left many inmates dead or injured,” Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday, October 13.
The brawl that erupted inside the East Quadrant of the NBP’s Maximum Security Compound early Friday morning, October 9, involved the prison gangs Sputnik and Commando.
Guevarra immediately asked for a report, which the BuCor submitted to him on Monday, October 12.
“The initial report merely described what happened. I told them to investigate more thoroughly,” said Guevarra.
Guevarra said he would wait for a final report from BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag and a report from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before taking appropriate action.
Guevarra and BuCor
By law, the Department of Justice (DOJ) only exercises administrative supervision of BuCor. This legal limit has prevented the DOJ from taking more control of the New Bilibid Prison, which in the past year has been turned upside down by scandals.
Guevarra has been pushing for an amendment of the BuCor law to give the DOJ more authority over it. This push followed the allegations of corruption in giving Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) credits, the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, and the successive deaths of high-profile inmates.
The drug convicts supposedly all died of coronavirus within days of each other, but they were cremated without autopsy per protocol, which then fueled speculations of irregularity.
There have also been calls for Bantag to resign, but Guevarra has distanced himself from that issue, citing lack of authority because the BuCor chief is a presidential appointee.
In the just-concluded congressional budget hearings, President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies have backed Bantag and said they trusted him to head the BuCor at this time.
A Senate investigation into the recent pandemic deaths in Bilibid has not yet pushed through.
Guevarra had ordered the NBI to probe this, but the result of that inquiry is not yet known. – Rappler.com