58 BJMP Bantag ‘appointees’ under probe

November 2, 2022 Alfred P. Dalizon 2101 views

FIFTY-EIGHT members of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) who were brought to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) by former Director General Gerard Bantag are being probed for violating a government “secondment” policy which allowed them to receive double compensation from the government, the Journal Group learned yesterday.

Highly reliable Journal Group sources said that the “secondment contract” involving the BJMP personnel-turned-BuCor officials under Bantag was not authorized by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Last week, BuCor Officer-in-Charge (OIC), retired Armed Forces chief of staff, General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, informed BJMP Chief Jail Director Allan S. Iral that the secondment contracts of the BJMP personnel with the BuCor have been “terminated” effective Tuesday, November 1.

The move was made in consonance with Article V of the Secondment Agreement between BuCor and BJMP, which states that “The Secondment may be terminated by any of the parties of any just or authorized cause/s.”

Sources said that some of the BJMP personnel were BJMP non-commissioned officers who were designated as BuCor officials or wardens with the rank of BuCor Superintendents during the time of Bantag.

“Secondment” is described as the movement of an employee from one department or agency to another, which is temporary in nature and may or may not require the issuance of an appointment that may involve an increase in compensation and benefits.

Its acceptance is considered “voluntary” on the part of the employee.

However, sources who requested anonymity since they are not allowed to speak on the matter said that the DILG was not “privy” to the agreement between Bantag and Iral.

“We have discovered that the BJMP personnel received compensation from the BJMP while at the same time receiving compensation too from the BuCor. In short, it is a problem [of] double compensation,” one of the sources said.

The same sources said that some of the BJMP personnel-turned BuCor officials during the term of Bantag are being investigated in connection with the killing of radio block-timer Percy Lapid last October 3 and the mysterious death of the alleged “middleman” in the contract killing inside the New Bilibid Prisons.

Nearly 160 persons, including ranking government and law enforcement officials who were ridiculed and subjected to heavy criticisms Lapid since 2021, have cropped up as “persons of interest” in the ambush-slay case, Philippine National Police (PNP) officials earlier said.

PNP chief General Rodolfo S. Azurin Jr. also said that as far as he is concerned, the Lapid case is not yet “solved” since they are yet to determine who really ordered the hit job.

“We have yet to determine kung sino ang mastermind, kung sino ang nagutos. Kung me middleman, saan galing ang utos,” the top cop said.

Azurin said that the around 160 personalities, some of them government, military, police, and other law enforcement officials, were among the subject of stinging radio commentaries by Lapid since 2021.

He said that the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG) had reviewed more than 600 radio commentaries by the slain radioman since last year as part of their ongoing investigation.

Azurin expressed the solidarity of the DILG-PNP with the Department of Justice-National Bureau of Investigation (DOJ-NBI) and the BuCor under retired Gen. Catapang in their quest to get to the bottom of the Lapid case.

He particularly thanked Catapang for prompting acting on their request for the custody of a national prisoner who is a person of interest in the investigation of the case. The convict is now safely under protective police custody, he added.

“Let me clarify that the person of interest is not a suspect but a possible witness who can provide vital information on the activities of his cousin, the late Villamor aka Cristito Palaña,” Azurin said.

Azurin said that the man was identified thru his Live Birth Certificate and affidavit submitted by his father, Restitutio Palana.

The PNP chief said that based on the affidavit signed by confessed gunman Joel Escorial, Jun Globa Villamor, and Crisanto Palana Villamor are the two alleged middlemen who facilitated the hit job on Lapid.

Azurin said that all the resources and capabilities of PNP National Support Units had been made available to assist SITG Percy Lapid in the ongoing investigation and follow-up operations.

“Pressing the manhunt operations for brothers Israel and Edmon Dimaculangan and a certain Orly will continue without let up, and it will create enough pressure leaving them no options but to surrender themselves to the authorities,” he added.

The PNP chief said they are looking into the probability there was “foul play” in the death of the supposed middleman. “It’s too much of a coincidence, the timing is suspect. Papano ka mababangungot sa tanghaling tapat sa loob ng Bilibid eh hindi ka naman makakatulog duoon sa mga oras nay un dahil sa sobrang init, sa sikip ng lugar,” he said.

Azurin said that they also need to have thorough access to the cell and cellmates o the deceased prisoner as part of their investigation.

“Definitely, nag-uusap [ang] mga yan, thus we need to conduct an investigation inside their cell,” he said.

The PNP chief said that the suspension of Bantag would also allow them to press their probe inside the Bilibid prisons.