15 murders in a decade
Since 2011, the Bureau of Corrections has seen 14 of its officials and personnel shot dead. Last Wednesday, the head of the legal division became the 15th BuCor employee to be murdered.
Fredric Anthony Santos was picking up his daughter at a school near the BuCor main office in Muntinlupa at around 2 p.m. when two men approached his Toyota Hilux pick-up and opened fire. Santos died at the scene from gunshots to the head.
The solution rate of the 14 previous murder cases targeting BuCor employees has been dismal. Solving Santos’ killing could prove even harder. His testimony at a Senate inquiry provided details of a scandal involving the anomalous application of a scheme that allowed the early release of inmates for good behavior while behind bars.
The practice drew national attention after it was bared that among those set to benefit from the good conduct time allowance or GCTA scheme was Antonio Sanchez. The former mayor of Calauan town in Laguna is serving a life term for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Mary Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her fellow UPLB student Allan Gomez. Santos swapped accusations with former BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon on who approved Sanchez’s release.
The Senate probe unearthed alleged payoffs related to GCTA-based releases as well as other illegal activities in the New Bilibid Prison and other facilities under BuCor. Santos was suspended amid a probe of his role in the scheme, and the suspension was reportedly set to end. There are unconfirmed reports that he intended to tag those who should be held responsible for the GCTA-for-sale racket.
Whether the brazen attack was an act of vengeance or meant to silence Santos permanently, the killers should be caught and punished – not only in the interest of justice, but also to shed light on anomalies in the BuCor, which has also been rocked by scandals involving large-scale drug trafficking and corruption in its prisons.
As of yesterday, police reportedly faced a blank wall on the killing. Seeing 15 murders within a decade in just one bureau indicates rot in the agency. Failure to bring the killers to justice is breeding impunity, and guarantees more murders ahead.