By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict three officials from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) with one count each of graft and direct bribery and ordered their dismissal from the service after being found guilty of grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Ordered dismissed are Officer-in-Charge of Inmate Documents and Processing Section Ramoncito Roque, New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Correctional Senior Inspector Maria Beinda “Mabel” Tudor Bansil, and NBP Custodial Officer Veronica “Boday” Bustamante Buño. They are also slapped with the accessory penalties of forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility. They are also barred from taking civil service examinations and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
Their indictment and dismissal stemmed from the reported anomalous implementation of R.A. 10592, the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, which led to the controversial release of several inmates imprisoned for heinous crimes.
Due to the impending release of convicted former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez of Laguna, as well as some other 11,000 persons deprived of liberty at the NBP, the Office of the Ombudsman formed a Special Panel of Investigators to conduct a fact-finding investigation on the supposed anomalies in the grant of the GCTA.
During the September 5, 2019 Senate hearing, witness Yolanda “Yolly” Camilon testified on the so-called “GCTA for Sale” scheme inside the NBP and attested that Roque, Bansil, and Buño demanded and received from her a total of P50,000 in exchange for the shortening of the prison sentence of her husband, NBP inmate Godfrey Gamboa.
Bansil approached Camilon and offered her the early release of her husband in exchange for P50,000. Bansil then facilitated Camilon’s meeting with Roque in his house, where Camilon handed P10,000 to him as initial payment.
Roque and Bansil promised that her husband would be released in March, 2019, although the date was later moved. Camilon gave P20,000 to Bansil, which Roque confirmed to have received later. Another P20,000 was handed over to Bansil after several follow-ups made by Buño.
In his defense, Roque argued that he was not within his official capacity to grant Camilon’s husband more GCTA than what his warden or supervisor gave him. When Camilon went to his house to follow up on her husband’s GCTA, he told her instead to talk to Bansil and Buño because he was not a party to their agreement. Roque added that the two even apologized to him for getting him involved in their modus operandi.
Bansil, on the other hand, said that forensic examination of her cellular phone and SIM card did not disclose any communication between her and Roque. Buño argued that there is neither evidence nor allegation from Camilon that she received money from her, since Camilon failed to present a “smoking-gun proof” of their message and call exchanges.
However, the Ombudsman was not convinced by their defense and gave more weight to Camilon’s statements.
“Bansil and Buño, who have direct contact with the inmates, took advantage of their positions to communicate with Camilon for pecuniary motives, while Roque, who has access to prison records of inmates, including that of Camilon’s husband, also took advantage of his position by representing to Camilon that he can manipulate the computation of her husband’s GCTA,” the partial decision read.
The Ombudsman likewise said that their defenses deserve scant consideration since their bare denial cannot prevail over Camilon’s positive and straightforward testimonies.
Even though Roque contended that he returned the P10,000 to Camilon, the Ombudsman decision stated that “his possession of the money for several days manifested his clear intention to take the bribe money.”
“It did not signify refusal or resistance to bribery considering that he was not supposed to accept any cash from any person in the course of his official duties,” it added.