THE country’s chief graft buster suspended three more prison officials for allegedly allowing the illegal release of felons convicted of heinous crimes, according to separate copies of the suspension orders.

Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires ordered a six-month suspension on Maria Fe Marquez, superintendent of the Correctional Institute for Women; Bureau of Corrections chief lawyer Frederic Anthony E. Santos; and correctional officer Joel Nalva.

The three had allowed the release of prison convicts based on public documents and testimonies of witnesses in violation of the law, Mr. Martires said in separate orders.

The officials were charged with grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

On Monday night, 27 other prison officials were suspended in connection with the botched release of ineligible prisoners.

The Ombudsman also asked jailed Senator Leila M. de Lima, who is a former Justice secretary, and former Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel A. Roxas II to explain what appears to be a defect in the rules implementing the law on the early release of convicts for good conduct.

In separate letters, Mr. Martires said the rules, which were drafted by the agencies under the two officials, did not specifically disqualify convicts of heinous crimes from parole as provided by law.

The rules only disqualify recidivists, felons who have been convicted at least twice and convicts who failed to surrender before a court during their sentence. Ms. de Lima and Mr. Roxas has three days to respond.

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

He also ordered his and other prison officials’ probe by the Ombudsman for corruption.

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.

Opposition Senator Franklin M. Drilon earlier 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.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra has ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to probe the reported sale of hospital passes to inmates at the Bureau of Corrections.

In an order dated Sept. 9, the Justice chief ordered government agents to build up a case and file charges against erring prison officials and employees.

GMA News earlier reported that prisoners inside the maximum security compound of the national jail in Muntinlupa City had been allowed to transfer to less crowded jails after illegally paying for hospital passes.

Mr. Guevarra earlier ordered a review of the rules on early release as well as a separate probe of corruption at the bureau after reports that parole grants have become for sale.

During a Senate hearing last week, a witness accused some prison officials of selling parole to families of convicts.

The Justice chief said he would order the bureau’s officer-in-charge to serve the suspension notices on prison officials.

“We will confer with the officer-in-charge and find ways to continue normal operations with the least disruption,” he said.

Mr. Guevarra on Friday appointed Melvin Ramon G. Buenafe officer-in-charge pending Mr. Duterte’s appointment of a new director-general.

He also formed a committee that would temporarily supervise the country’s prison system. — Vince Angelo C. Ferreras and Vann Marlo M. Villegas