A jail officer stands guard over knives and other contraband that were confiscated from inmates at the New Bilibid Prison and arranged for inventory at the Bureau of Corrections main office in Muntinlupa City on Nov. 2, 2022. Photo by Ernie Peñaredondo, The Philippine STAR
BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang said he has been on damage control since taking over leadership of the agency from suspended chief Gerald Bantag
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) is imploding due to corruption and other questionable activities in the agency, officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang said on Friday, Nov. 11.
According to Catapang, he has been on damage control since taking over leadership of the agency from suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag, who was tagged as the mastermind in the murder of radio broadcaster Percy Lapid, based on the result of an investigation by a joint team from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP).
Catapang said he found several problems within BuCor which need immediate solutions.
“I compiled everything that’s been happening here. I discovered (corruption) right in front of my face, everything’s blowing up – in other words, BuCor is imploding,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English in an interview with “The Chiefs” on One News.
Among these discoveries are corrupt BuCor personnel who are blatantly committing nefarious activities.
Catapang cited, as an example, their discovery of 7,512 cans of beer that were smuggled into the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). The retired military chief said seven of the liquor cans were al-ready missing during a news conference.
As BuCor chief, Catapang said he must always be on alert for corrupt officers.
“Never blink your eyes, or else you will get an incident where someone is able to slip in some contraband,” he said.
Catapang has also ordered an investigation into a tunnel from an excavation site at the BuCor grounds which was left by Bantag.
He debunked Bantag’s claim that the excavation is for a swimming pool, as he stressed there is already an existing facility at the director general’s quarters.
Catapang believes the people behind the tunnel were out looking for alleged treasure believed to be buried in the NBP.
Bantag warns Marcos
Bantag urged President Marcos to take a second look at the information being given to him by his officials on Lapid’s murder.
While he understood where Marcos’ statement against him in connection with Lapid’s killing is coming from, Bantag said the President should consider if the information being fed to him by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla is the truth.
“We can’t do anything about the President’s reaction, which are based on the reports of the Secretary (Remulla). The question is, is it true what’s being fed to you (Marcos)?” Bantag said in Filipino in an interview aired over GMA News’ “24 Oras” on Friday night.
Marcos said Bantag established his own fiefdom at BuCor, wherein he seemingly acted “with no fear of being punished.”
Bantag branded as pure hogwash the investigation against him, which was supervised by Remulla whom he said orchestrated a campaign that led to his ouster as BuCor chief.
Without offering evidence, Bantag hinted that Remulla was the one who ordered a surveillance on his supposed mansion and collection of vehicles in a subdivision in Laguna.
In September, Lapid showed in his program a video of the mansion and vehicles allegedly owned by an official under the Department of Justice whom he dubbed as “Cinderella Man.”
However, Bantag believes it was not Lapid who went to his house, noting that two unidentified vehicles were spotted roaming around the subdivision.
“I ordered an investigation, and it has come to light that those vehicles are connected to Sec. Boying Remulla,” he said.
Bantag dared Remulla to resign, saying he no longer has the credibility and moral ascendancy to lead the justice department, after his son was arrested for illegal drugs.
Bantag’s interviews with media outfits might work against him, as the Lapid family is planning to use these as evidence once the murder complaint against Bantag reaches court.
Berteni Causing, lawyer and spokesman for Lapid’s family, said they are eyeing to use Bantag’s interviews as evidence against him in the broadcaster’s murder.
Among these is an interview conducted by radio broadcaster Anthony Taberna with Bantag before the joint team of the NBI and PNP filed murder charges against the suspended BuCor chief.
Bantag was also interviewed by other news outfits on Friday, wherein he vehemently denied he was the mastermind in Lapid’s killing.
“We can use those as evidence just to create a separate evidence to prove conspiracy,” Causing said in a separate interview with “The Chiefs”.
Causing did not give details on how they plan to use Bantag’s interviews against him.
The lawyer said Bantag’s tirades was just a smokescreen in an attempt to evade accountability for the murder.
“We call it as a fire without substance, and an attempt to evade from the real issue,” Causing said.
He said as far as they are concerned, Bantag was the head of the conspiracy to murder Lapid.
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