THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from service of and the filing of criminal charges against three officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) before the Sandiganbayan for involvement in an alleged good-conduct-pass-for-sale scam.
In a 22-page resolution released yesterday, Ombudsman Samuel Martires approved the indictment of senior technical officer II Ramoncito D. Roque, officer-in-charge of the Inmate Documents and Processing Section; New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) correctional senior inspector Maria Belinda “Mabel” T. Bansil; and, NBP custodial officer Veronica “Boday” B. Buño on criminal offenses of violations Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code for direct bribery.
The three respondents were also found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, which is punishable with discharge from office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
The rulings were based on the recommendations of the special panel of investigators composed of Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officers Myra Nimfa R. Solidum-Mendieta, Randolph M. Nicolas, Judy Ann Doctor-Escalona, and Lourdes S. Padre Juan.
The charges stemmed from the Senate investigation into allegations that certain BuCor are involved in irregularities regarding the release of convicted criminals based on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA).
What nailed the BuCor officials was the testimony of Yolanda Camilon, common-law wife of an NBP inmate who disclosed that she was asked to shell out P50,000 in February 2019 in exchange for the early release of her husband who is serving time in prison.
The GCTA-for-sale scam was uncovered after the media got wind of the impending release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez, former mayor of Calauan in Laguna, who is serving seven life terms for the rape and murder of a University of the Philippines-Los Baños student and murder of another UP-LB student.
Camilon tagged Bansil as the one who approached her about the payoff scheme, while Buño did follow up on her subsequent payments.
The payments were handed to the respondents at the residence of Roque who had earlier agreed to the delivery of the money in three installments.
“Roque, Bansil, and Buño demanded and received P50,000 from Camilon in exchange for the early release of the latter’s husband,” the Ombudsman said.
Being public officers, the Ombudsman held that respondents’ actions were attended by evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence which caused undue injury to Camilon.
The charges and dismissal orders were the first cases to be resolved by the anti-corruption agency in relation to the GCTA-for-sale scam.
Other complaints against other officials of the BuCor, the NBP, and the Davao Prison and Penal Farm are still under ongoing investigations.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has ordered the BuCor to implement the Ombudsman’s decision.
BuCor is one of the agencies attached of the Department of Justice.
“I fully agree with the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman. I was present during the Senate hearings and personally heard the testimony of the witnesses and observed the demeanor of the respondents,” Guevarra said when sought for comment.
He also said the decision should serve as a “stern warning to all personnel of the BuCor who are minded to undermine the integrity of their own agency.”
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the justice and human rights panel which held the hearings, commended the Ombudsman for acting promptly in dismissing and indicting the three officials but said the Ombudsman should have “cast a wider net” and included higher-ranked BuCor officials who were also involved in the criminal activity.
He named Nicanor Faeldon who was BuCor chief when the news about Sanchez’ impending release came out in media. Faeldon was sacked shortly after by President Duterte.
Gordon said the NBP and BuCor physicians involved in the scam should also be prosecuted. – With Ashzel Hachero