Fr. James Darunday finally broke his silence over a one year ban from entering the Bohol District Jail (BDJ) Facility in Barangay Cabawan, Tagbilaran City by filing a Motion for Reconsideration (MR) asking the BDJ Disciplinary Board Committee to reverse and set aside its resolution “granting punishment/sanction” for violation of jail rules and guidelines.
The MR was submitted to the BDJ by Fr. Darunday and the Diocese of Tagbilaran represented by Bishop Albert Uy through their Counsel Atty. Florendo C. Columnas even as they denounced the incident “as an affront not only to the person of Fr. James Darunday and his family but also to the priests, nuns, church leaders and the faithful of the Diocese of Tagbilaran.”
According to an investigation report by the BDJ, Fr. James broke prison rules after fifty packs of cigarettes (Winston) and ninety-three pieces of tobacco leaves were discovered in a plastic biscuit container which he voluntarily gave to the jail guards for inspection on November 26, 2017.
Fr. James was requested by Maria Rosario Patac to give the biscuit container to inmate Rey Gako. Patac and Gako were parishioners of Darunday in Barangay Baang, Catigbian.
Patac claimed that she had no knowledge of the contents of the plastic container which was given to her by Gako’s friend. Patac was considered as the prime suspect in sneaking contraband that was found in the plastic container and was meted a lifetime ban in entering the BDJ.
Disciplinary Board Committee Resolution No. 2017-15 on November 27, 2017, Fr. Darunday violated section 30, Grave Offense, paragraph W of the Bureau of Jail, Management and Penology (BJMP) Operations Manual Revised 2015.
In an investigation conducted on the day the incident occurred, BDJ investigators acknowledged that Fr. James had no personal knowledge of the contents of the plastic container and not even a visitor of Gako, “however, he was the one who carried it inside the jail facility.”
NO LEGAL BASIS
Fr. Darunday claimed that he was not afforded due process, the resolution of the Disciplinary Committee is not based on any law, circular, guidelines or operations manual and is not guilty of any violation that would warrant the one year ban.
Fr. James was not notified of any investigation of the alleged “sneaking” of what is considered “contraband” nor required to submit his answer to the charges against him.
Darunday also discredited the provision cited as the basis for his sanction as “misplaced, if not totally wrong” since it applies to the “prohibited acts of an inmate” pointing out that “he is a priest assigned to celebrate mass inside the BDJ and not an inmate.”
Fr. James also upbraided the Disciplinary Committee on its “interpretation and application” of a memorandum signed by former BJMP Regional Director Jail Chief Superintendent (J/CSUPT Dennis U. Rocamora on January 30, 2017, as “totally misplaced.”
The memo reads “delinquent inmates visitors found guilty of smuggling contraband will be indefinitely banned from visiting.”
Fr. James argued that “he could not be considered as a visitor of any inmate, has never been tagged or branded as delinquent and has never been found guilty nor charged by any competent authority of smuggling contraband.”
The “unfounded, baseless, unjustified and unconstitutional issuance of Resolution No. 2017-15 has sowed fear, alarm, and terror to the priests of the Diocese of Tagbilaran” that might discourage other priests from saying mass at the BDJ, according to Fr. James.
Fr. Darunday exhorted the Disciplinary Board Committee and Jail Inspector Felipe Montejo to redeem his name and the Diocese of Tagbilaran for the damage they had caused in public and will not hesitate to bring the matter to higher authorities for grave misconduct, dishonesty and conduct unbecoming of public officers. (Chito M. Visarra)