PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Friday said he still believed in his former prison chief, whom he fired early this week over the illegal release of felons convicted of heinous crimes for good conduct.

“Faeldon is a good man,” the president in a speech delivered in the Visayan language in Naga City.

Mr. Duterte recalled how Mr. Faeldon when he was still Bureau of Customs head reported to him about a Cebu-based businessman who kept cigarettes with fake tax stamps in three warehouses.

“We earned P37 billion because of that report by Faeldon,” the president said.

He was referring to the warehouses of Mighty Corp. that authorities raided in 2017. The cigarette company later paid the taxes.

Mr. Faeldon headed the Bureau of Customs but was forced to resign at the height of a controversy involving the shipment of billions of pesos worth of crystal meth from China. He was reappointed to the Office of Civil Defense before heading the BuCor in 2018.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra appointed a Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) official to temporarily head the agency after President Rodrigo Duterte fired Nicanor E. Faeldon.

BuCor Assistant Secretary Melvin Ramon G. Buenafe was appointed officer-in-charge, according to a copy of a department order.

Mr. Guevarra also created a committee headed by Justice Undersecretary Deo L. Marco, with Assistant Secretaries Neal V. Bainto and George Ortha II mandated that will supervise the bureau pending the appointment of new director general.

Mr. Duterte on Wednesday sacked Mr. Faeldon over the illegal release of almost 2,000 felons convicted of heinous crimes.

Also yesterday, Mr. Guevarra said his office would investigate corruption at the bureau after reports that parole grants have become for sale.

“That will be part of the investigation,” the Justice chief said. His office is already reviewing the processes being followed for convicts’ early release for good conduct, he told reporters.

“I do not have the facts before me but I tend to believe that is a very real possibility,” Mr Guevarra said.

During a Senate hearing on Thursday, a witness accused some prison officials of selling parole to families of convicts. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas