By Jean Fernando and Rey Panaligan
The Paranaque City Regional Trial Court (RTC) has acquitted Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Gerald Bantag of 10 counts of homicide in connection with the 2016 grenade explosion in the city’s jail that left 10 detainees dead.
Bantag’s acquittal was confirmed to journalists covering the Department of Justice (DOJ) by Undersecretary Markk Perete.
Based on the decision of Paranaque City RTC Branch 274, the homicide case against Bantag and two other jail officers was dismissed due to insufficiency of evidence.
The court said that Bantag, who was wounded in the blast, had faced “an actual attack… when the inmates or one of the inmates fired at him and …[threw at] him an unknown object later confirmed to be a fragmentation grenade.”
The prosecution, it said, “presented no other evidence except the bare allegations of the private complainants.”
Previous reports state that the grenade explosion in Paranaque City’s jail facility was an attempt of several inmates to bolt jail.
The inmates, including two Chinese nationals, had a meeting with Bantag, then the warden of the Paranaque City jail, when the blast occurred inside his office on Aug. 11, 2016. The inmates sought the meeting with Bantag as a prelude to kidnapping the jail warden and breaking out of jail.
However, the wife of a slain inmate claimed that the blast was staged to summarily execute inmates, allegedly those facing drug charges.
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Bantag to the BuCor in September last year to replace Nicanor Faeldon, who was fired that month over the questionable release of several heinous crime convicts.
Immediately after assuming his post, Bantag instituted several reforms in BuCor, particularly at the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, including the demolition of so-called illegal structures inside NBP.