No more ‘special favors’ for ex-mayor after lunch out of prison
The Cebu provincial jail warden and his assistant were relieved from their posts yesterday by Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia following a Cebu Daily News front-page story about the lunch out of a detained ex-mayor accused in the murder of a Mindanao broadcaster.
The jail guard, Edison Ferraren, also faces investigation by the Ombudsman Visayas.
The anti-graft office said it would investigate why and how former mayor Alfredo Arsenio of Lezo town, Aklan, was allowed to eat in a restaurant in the Capitol area, and move about without handcuffs.
State prosecutors said they would file contempt charges against Arsenio, his lawyer and the jail guard because the side trip was not authorized by any court order.
CDN reporter Ador Vincent Mayol and a TV5 crew observed the ex-mayor having lunch in Sabel’s Restaurant with his jail guard and lawyer after Arsenio had testified in his murder trial at the Palace of Justice on Wednesday morning.
The three were served rice, pochero and lechon kawali.
Arsenio came out of the eatery with cash bills in his hands, still without handcuffs. The scene was captured by TV video footage as the inmate, dressed in a prison T-shirt, was about to board a vehicle back to the Cebu provincial jail.
Arsenio told his jail escort that he had to count the money first before the handcuffs would go back on his wrists.
The ex-mayor is accused of shooting dead Bombo Radyo station manager Gerson Hinolan in Kalibo, Aklan, eight years ago. The venue of the trial was moved to Cebu City in 2008 for a more neutral setting so that the accused could not use his influence or pressure witnesses.
Governor Garcia announced the relief of Algier Commendador as warden of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) and Reynaldo Pepito Jr. as his assistant jail warden.
She said this was only “one” of a series of lapses that convinced her to relieve them and a “warning” to others who don’t perform their duties.
As governor, Garcia is directly responsible for the Cebu provincial jail.
She also placed consultant Jose Marie Gastardo in charge of jail matters, replacing consultant Cesar Veloso yesterday.
Commendador and his assistant were reassigned to the Civil Security Services Division. They face investigation by the Capitol committee on discipline and investigation headed by lawyer Lito Astillero.
The inquiry will include the jail guard escort who was identified as Prison Jail Guard I Ferraren.
“Who gave the jail guard the authority to decide on his own they would have a lunch out?” said the governor. She said this was similar to the previous case of a provincial jail guard who allowed an inmate to go home.
The post of CPDRC warden was temporarily assigned to Security Agent I Napoleon Miranda as OIC with Romeo Manansala, prison guard I, as assistant jail warden.
Garcia said the positions will be open to qualified individuals.
“A totally new setup with new faces should be introduced,” she said.
The governor also placed consultant Jose Marie Gastardo in charge of jail matters, replacing Cesar Veloso. Veloso will continue to be a consultant on peace and order.
The governor said Gastardo is making a manual for jail operations and “will see to it that the manual is passed in the Provincial Board and implemented in CPDRC.”
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol yesterday docketed a complaint for fact-finding based on Cebu Daily News’ banner story yesterday to find out if there was a violation in the rules of handling a prisoner.
Ferraren, the jail guard, will be the focus of the inquiry.
“We appreciate the efforts of the media in pointing out controversies involving government personnel. Had the issue not been publicized, lusot na naman sila (they would have gotten away with it),” he said.
State Prosecutor Hazel Valdez said she would ask the court to order Arsenio, his Manila-based lawyer Edwin Musico and the jail guard to explain why they should not be cited in contempt of court.
Assistant State Prosecutor Llena Ipong-Avila said she was disappointed at this clear example of “special treatment” of an inmate.
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