THE Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of three prison officials for grave misconduct after they were accused of allowing the release of inmates for a fee.

Ordered fired were the Bureau of Corrections Officer-in-Charge Ramoncito D. Roque, Section Chief Maria Belinda Tudor Bansil and Senior Inspector Veronica Bustamante Buño, the ombudsman said in a statement on Wednesday.

The three were also accused of direct bribery and graft after they allegedly demanded and received P50,000 from the wife of a convict in exchange for her husband’s release.

The prison officials will forfeit their retirement benefits and will be perpetually disqualified from holding public office, the Ombudsman said.

If any of them had been separated from the service, they will be fined “the amount equivalent to their respective last salaries for one year, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman,” according to the statement.

The amount may be deducted from their retirement benefits or leave credits.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra said he “fully agrees” with the decision.

“I fully agree with the decision of the ombudsman,” he said in a group message. “I was present during the Senate hearings and personally heard the testimony of the witnesses and observed the demeanor of the respondents”, he added.

The Justice chief said he had ordered the prison administration to enforce the judgment “without prejudice to the resolution of any appeal that the respondents may take.”

“May this decision of the ombudsman serve as a stern warning to all personnel of the BuCor who are minded to undermine the integrity of their own agency,” Mr. Guevarra said.

The ombudsman last year suspended dozens of prison officials for allegedly allowing the illegal release of felons convicted of heinous crimes.

The Senate had investigated the early release of thousands of inmates for good conduct, and found that unscrupulous officials had benefited from the scheme.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte had fired Nicanor E. Faeldon, head of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), after he allowed the illegal release of about 2,000 felons convicted of heinous crimes for good conduct.

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.

The Justice and Local Government departments later changed the rules implementing the law on early releases to plug loopholes.

Opposition Senator Franklin M. Drilon had said Mr. Faeldon was not only incompetent but also lied under oath to evade accountability for the planned early release of ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio L. Sanchez.

The release of the former politician, who was sentenced to seven life terms in 1995 for the rape and murder of two University of the Philippines students in 1993, was suspended after a public outcry and a Senate investigation of the plan. — Genshen L. Espedido