BuCor chief acquitted in death of 10 inmates
MANILA, Philippines — Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag was acquitted on Wednesday of homicide charges in connection with the death of 10 inmates in an explosion-shootout at the Parañaque City Jail in 2016 when he was still the warden.
“This court finds the pieces of evidence to be insufficient to warrant the conviction of all the accused beyond reasonable doubt,” Judge Betlee-Ian Barraquias of the Parañaque Regional Trial Court Branch 274 said in a 16-page consolidated ruling.
Aside from Bantag, also acquitted were SJO2 Ricardo Zulueta and JO2 Victor Erick Pascua of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). All three were each charged with 10 counts of homicide.
The court said that Bantag had “merely acted in self-defense” and “he had no intention to kill” when he fired upon the inmates who supposedly requested a conference with him on Aug. 11, 2016 to discuss jail conditions.
Based on the evidence presented, there was an “actual unlawful aggression” when the inmates fired in the direction of Bantag, with the court noting that one of the inmates had also thrown a fragmentation grenade, “causing actual peril and danger to the life of the jail warden.”
According to the judge, Bantag, as head of the BJMP Parañaque, was “bound to overcome the inmates with such force as may be necessary, not only to protect his life against danger … but also to prevent the inmates by escaping [from] the jail facility or [committing] any illegal acts.”
While it was apparent to the court that Bantag had fired shots, “there [was] no direct evidence to show that [he] fired his service firearm with the intention to shoot a specific victim.”
The court also absolved Zulueta after it found that he did not fire shots while Pascua, who had traded gunfire with the inmates after hearing Bantag’s call for help, was likewise acquitted under the “defense of a stranger” doctrine.
The prosecution had said the inmates did not fire their guns, citing the results of paraffin tests. The court, however, ruled that the test results were “not conclusive.”
Asked for comment, Bantag thanked God for his acquittal, saying He had been guiding him since he was a boy.
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