MANILA, Philippines – The Marine officer who defied former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be the new head of the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor), which supervises national prisons such as the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.
Major General Alexander Balutan, a Mindanao combat veteran, is replacing retired Army General Ricardo Rainier Cruz as the new head of Bucor, according to Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. Balutan will assume the post on August 1, he added.
“General Balutan's integrity is unquestionable,” Aguirre told Rappler. “Matibay ang loob, firm in his commitment to rid BuCor of illegal drugs and corruption, and he’s a good manager,” he added. The justice department supervises Bucor.
In an earlier interview with Rappler, Aguirre said that his priority under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte is to cleanse and reorganize Bucor, particularly the NBP.
"Because of what's happening within BuCor, I think this will be the first mission which we'll accomplish," Aguirre said. He plans to eliminate drug trading in prisons, especially since "about 75% of drug transactions are cooked in Muntinlupa" – mostly by detained Chinese drug lords.
A 1983 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Balutan is expected to retire from the military upon his assumption as Bucor director.
The Marine general is best remembered for testifying at the Senate about alleged election fraud in the 2004 presidential elections that then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo won. Balutan, then a colonel, was assigned in Central Mindanao during that election.
He defied a Malacañang gag order and was charged in a military court for it.
Balutan’s military career however was resurrected under the Aquino administration. But that didn't stop him from speaking out. At the height of the pork barrel scam, he posted on Facebook that the misuse of lawmakers' pork barrel is the root of the rebellion in Mindanao. – with reports from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com