MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Thursday, February 20, that the killing of suspended prisons legal chief Fredric Santos was "very likely" related to the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) controversy.
"Still under investigation, but very likely that it might have something to do with the GCTA issue," Guevarra told reporters on Thursday.
Guevarra has also signed Department Order No. 082 directing the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe and case buildup into the killing of Santos, the suspended legal chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Santos, who is serving a 6-month suspension, was shot dead Wednesday afternoon, February 19, in front of his daughter's school in Muntinlupa City.
Santos was among 30 BuCor officials that the Office of the Ombudsman suspended for 6 months in September 2019 as a preventive measure pending the investigation into the alleged corruption of the GCTA system.
'We should be outraged'
Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the blue ribbon committee that led the hearings into the GCTA mess last year, said Santos' killing should not be treated as just "another statistic."
"This is not a small case, I hope we will not treat this as another statistic," Gordon said, adding that he had information that Santos was monitored by a drug lord.
Santos was a BuCor insider who worked as prison guard in Bilibid for many years. In 2017, he became a licensed lawyer and rose to the top to head the legal division.
Gordon said Santos is the 15th BuCor official since 2011 to be killed within proximity of Bilibid.
"This culture of killing against people who may have knowledge is a threat upon everybody – kung may nalalaman ka, it's a threat upon you. Dapat magimbal tayo; magalit tayo. Kailan tayo magagalit? Papayag ba tayo na ganyan na lamang?" Gordon said.
(This culture of killing against people who may have knowledge is a threat upon everybody – if you know something, it's a threat upon you. We should be shocked; we should be outraged. When will we be outraged? Are we just going to let this pass?)
Santos was a fixture in the marathon hearings at the Senate, where some officials were accused of extorting money from inmates in exchange for their early release in what was called the "GCTA for sale" scheme.
Santos, whose office is not included in the route of screening for GCTA grants, was grilled by the Senate blue ribbon committee on his role in rendering legal opinion on whether the BuCor chief needed the approval of the justice secretary in releasing inmates sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
At the hearing, Santos testified that he had told then BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon of the rule requiring a justice secretary's approval for releases, but when Faeldon denied this, Santos backtracked and said he could not recall whether it was just relayed to a staff member.
Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed during the hearing that he had information that Santos joined in on drug sessions inside Bilibid. Santos denied the accusation and submitted himself to a drug test. – Rappler.com