DOJ orders probe on ‘hospital pass for sale’ at Bilibid

MANILA — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate reported irregularities in the grant of medical furlough to inmates at the New Bilibid Prison.

In a Department Order 479, the NBI was ordered “to conduct investigation and case build-up on the alleged illegal practice of transferring Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDL) to the New Bilibid Prison Hospital for monetary consideration”.

“If evidence warrants [the NBI is directed] to file the appropriate charges against persons found responsible therefor,” the order read.

Meanwhile, Guevara said the agency’s oversight committee over the BuCor will immediately implement the preventive suspension ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman on more than two dozen prison officials following reports of irregularities in the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).

“The DOJ, through its oversight committee, will direct the Bucor OIC (Melvin Buenafe) to serve the notices of preventive suspension and implement it immediately,” Guevarra told reporters.

“We will confer with the OIC and find ways to continue normal operations with the least disruption,” he added.

Under the rules of the Ombudsman, preventive suspension of up to six months may be ordered if evidence of guilt is strong in a charge against a government officer or employee involving dishonesty, oppression, or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty which would warrant removal from the service or when the respondent’s continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him.

The order signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires calls for the suspension of Chief Supt. Gerardo Padilla, Senior Supt. Celso Bravo, Corrections Technical Officer (CTO) II Ramoncito Roque and 24 others in connection with an investigation that the anti-graft body was conducting into “the alleged anomalous release of prison convicts.”

It said the Ombudsman “finds that the evidence in the form of testimonies of witnesses and public documents pointing to irregularities in the release of prisoners appear to be strong.”

Likewise suspended were Insp. Benjamin Barrios, Superintendent II Francisco Abunales, Senior Supt. Melencio Faustino, CTO III Cherry Caliston, Ruelito Pulmano, Insp. Emerita Aguilar, Insp. Raymund Peneyra, Corrections Officer (CO) I Jomar Coria, Insp. Roy Vivo, Senior Supt. Wilfredo Bayona, CO3 John Edward Basi, Insp. Abel Ciruela, Insp. Roger Boncales, Prison Guard (PG) II Eduardo Cabuhat, Dr. Ma. Lourdes Razon, Mary Loy Arbatin, Susana Ortega, PG III Anthony Nupable Omega, PG II Antonio Calumpit, Supt. Roberto Rabo, Insp. Jones Lanuza, Senior Officers 1 Victor de Monteverde, Maribel Bancil and Veronica Buño.  Benjamin Pulta / PNA –