DOJ to file torture charges vs. ex-BuCor chief Bantag

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday announced that it will file torture charges against former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag, who has been accused of stabbing two inmates in the New Bilibid Prison last year.

The DOJ said that in a resolution dated May 2, state prosecutors found probable cause to indict Bantag for two counts of physical torture and mental/psychological torture over the incident that allegedly occurred in February 2022.

He will also face charges for two counts of serious physical injuries.

Meanwhile, the department said ex-BuCor Deputy Security Head Ricardo Zulueta will face charges as an accessory to the crime.

It added that the cases will be filed before the Regional Trial Court in Muntinlupa City. The DOJ did not say when they will be filed.

Both Bantag and Zulueta — who have been implicated in the October 2022 killing of veteran broadcaster Percival "Percy Lapid" Mabasa — are at large.

Last January, Bilibid inmates Ronald Usman and Jonathan Escopete filed a complaint before the DOJ against Bantag and Zulueta over the stabbing incident, which allegedly took place while Bantag was drunk and furious over a jailbreak that happened the month prior.

They presented as witnesses five detainee leaders who were with them when they were summoned to Bantag's office.

According to Escopete, the ex-BuCor chief stabbed him in the left thigh, while Usman said he was stabbed in his right hand, causing his middle finger to become paralyzed.

READ: Bantag on claims he stabbed Bilibid inmates: Just prove it

After the incident, Zulueta supposedly gave them ₱50,000 each for them to remain silent.

The DOJ said an administrative charge against Bantag for grave misconduct was also recommended to be referred to its technical division for proper action.