The Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and ex-BuCor Spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag for allegedly forcing a correction officer of the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm (IPPF) in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan to sign a document denying a shooting incident between BuCor personnel occurred in the facility in March 2020.
In a statement on Friday, DOJ prosecutors recommended the filing of grave coercion charges against Bantag, and Chaclag under Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code months after six jail guards from IPPF lodged a criminal complaint against the officials for alleged torture, grave threat, grave coercion, oral defamation, and obstruction of justice.
Other respondents in the case are former BuCor Deputy Security Officer Superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, jail guards Jayferson Bon-As, Victor Pascua, Bayani Allaga, Rose Marie Casion, Joel Arnold, Kanoy Lattot, Ave Akilit, Edgar Angeles Jr., and Michale Marzan.
Meanwhile, the complainants are corrections officers Richie Canja, Lazaro Rafols, Jer Mojado, Eddie Jimenez, Roy Gacasa, and Asher Labrador.
According to Canja, the BuCor officials assaulted them on March 1, 2020, at Iwahig for supposedly exposing an asset of the BuCor. They were transferred to the New Bilibid Prison the following day, where Bantag allegedly hurt them.
“The evidence disclosed that during the subject incident on March 2, 2020, then DG Bantag, together with Chaclag, unlawfully coerced, through violence, threats, and intimidation, complainant Canja into signing a document stating that there was no shooting incident at the IPPF on 1 March 2020 involving BuCor personnel,” the DOJ said.
“Respondents Bantag and Chaclag, through the employment of violence, threats, and intimidation, as well as hurling unsavory words to complainants, had unlawfully forced Canja to desist from filing a criminal complaint against Bantag's men for the incident at the IPPF,” it said.
The DOJ further said the two officials had "no authority or any right to prevent Canja from filing a criminal case against those involved. As a result, Bantag and Chaclag should be held liable for the crime of grave coercion”.
The case will be filed at the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court.
State prosecutors, meanwhile, said they found no probable cause to indict the respondent for the grave threats, physical injuries, slander, obstruction of justice, and torture charges due to insufficient evidence.
On Tuesday, the DOJ recommended the filing of torture charges against Bantag and Zulueta over the alleged torture of two gang members at the NBP.
Apart from this, Bantag and Zulueta are also facing murder charges for the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid and alleged middleman Jun Villamor. A Muntinlupa Court has already issued warrants of arrest for both former Bucor officials. — DVM, GMA Integrated News