Plunder raps adding to Bantag’s legal woes | Inquirer News

Plunder raps adding to Bantag’s legal woes

By: - Reporter / @dexcabalzaINQ
/ 05:36 AM December 22, 2022
Gerald Bantag STORY: Plunder raps adding to Bantag’s legal woes

Suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag will also face plunder charges for allegedly endorsing P300 million in unauthorized advance payments for unfinished prison projects, the bureau’s acting chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. said on Wednesday.

Catapang said Bantag, a respondent in the murder complaint filed over the killings of radio broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa and the alleged middleman in the slay plot, Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña, should be held responsible for “all the anomalies that happened during his watch.”


In an interview on dzBB, the BuCor head said he discovered that 95 percent of the P1-billion funding for the modernization of four BuCor facilities at the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Panabo City, Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog town, and Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City was already released to the private contractor.

But an inspection conducted by field engineers showed that the construction of four buildings in the penal colonies was only 60-percent complete, belying earlier reports sent to BuCor that they were 95-percent finished, Catapang said.


He said only around P650 million, not P950 million, should have been released to the contractor, based on the actual progress of the construction.

“The prison cells they called 95-percent finished don’t even have roofs yet. How will our PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) be housed there? Because of this, the implementation of our reform agenda has been stalled,” Catapang said.

“If we have already paid 95 percent of the contract, then the construction should have also been 95 percent finished,” Catapang said.

He did not identify the construction company, whose contract to build the facilities lapsed in August.

In an earlier interview on CNN Philippines, Catapang said he had launched an initial investigation about illegal payments made during the previous administration.

‘Higher authority’

“And our witness told us that somebody up there, a higher authority, who directed them to doctor the reports to reflect that so that the construction works are already 95-percent complete, so that the construction company can already claim 95 percent of the payments,” he said.

Asked who was the higher authority, Catapang replied: “It’s already there in the hierarchy. It’s the highest official of BuCor at that time, during the time of General Bantag, who should be responsible for all the anomalies that happened during his watch.”


He said Bantag was not the only one who would be named in the plunder complaint, but all BuCor personnel involved down to rank-and-file employees.

“Starting from those who made the papers, documents, who signed, who authorized the release of funds. This may include the accounting office, the finance office, auditing office, and other offices, and of course the engineers,” he said.

Catapang said the complaint would be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman “before the end of the year or early next year.”

Under the law, plunder is committed by “any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family… business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt criminal acts… in the aggregate amount or total value of at least P50 million.”

At the right forum

Bantag’s lawyer Rocky Balisong said his camp would wait for the filing of the complaint and would answer the allegations of Catapang at the proper forum.

On Oct. 21, Bantag was suspended on President Marcos’ orders after his name was dragged into the investigation into the killing of Mabasa on Oct. 3 and Palaña on Oct. 18.

Three days later, Catapang was installed as the officer in charge of BuCor with a mission to reform the agency.

Bantag, however, remains as its director general even while under preventive suspension. He is supposed to serve until March 2028.

Since he was installed as BuCor chief, Catapang has exposed irregularities during Bantag’s term—from thousands of beer cans and other contraband at New Bilibid Prison, the pileup of dead inmates in a BuCor-accredited morgue, the unauthorized excavation at the NBP reservation which turned out to be part of a treasure hunt, and a menagerie of animals at NBP.

He also spoke about the alleged torture of PDLs at the hands of Bantag and other prison officials.

“My target is to expose all the wrongdoings of the previous administration before the year ends,” Catapang said, adding: “These are impediments for me to move forward.”


Bantag’s ‘pool’ project in Bilibid surprises DOJ

DOJ: Evidence collected in Percy Lapid slaying points to Bantag, not drug syndicates

2 Bilibid gang leaders to file criminal raps vs ex-BuCor chief Bantag

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: Percy Lapid, Plunder
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.
Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

News that matters

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.