A PARAÑAQUE City court has acquitted Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Q. Bantag and two other jail officers of homicide charges over the 2016 explosion at the city jail, where 10 inmates were killed. In the 16-page decision penned by Acting Presiding Judge Betlee-Ian J. Barraquias of Regional Trial Court Branch 274, Mr. Bantag, along with SJO2 Ricardo S. Zulueta and JO2 Victor Erick L. Pascua, were cleared of 10 counts of homicide charges. The court said the prosecution was not able to prove all the elements that constitute homicide. “The prosecution failed to establish that the deaths of the victims were brought about by a common design by all the accused acting in unison or they mutually aided one another to cause the demise of the victims,” the judge said. The ruling also cited that the prosecution failed to present evidence of conspiracy among the accused. “No evidence was adduced that all the accused had the common objective to kill the victims. It is fundamental principle in Criminal Law that conspiracy must also be proven beyond reasonable doubt. The explosion occurred on Aug. 11, 2016, as inmates were to meet with Mr. Bantag to discuss matters on the transfer of cells. Mr. Bantag was appointed to head the BuCor by President Rodrigo R. Duterte in Sept. 2019, replacing Nicanor E. Faeldon who stepped down following the controversy on premature release of inmates. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas