By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said former jail warden Gerald Bantag may just be the right person the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) needed to end the money-making schemes at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
Sotto welcomed the appointment of Bantag as the new BuCor chief after the discovery of the various money-making schemes in the state penitentiary involving government officials and employees.
He will replace former Marine officer Nicanor Faeldon, who was sacked for allegedly disobeying President Duterte concerning the early release of convicts of heinous crimes through the expanded good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.
“I heard he has a reputation of being a strict enforcer. That’s what the BuCor needs,” he said of Bantag Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Bantag was appointed due to his “professional competence and honesty.”
Before his appointment, Bantag was regional director of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Region 4-B (MiMaRoPa).
The new BuCor director-general also served as jail warden of the Manila, Malabon, and Parañaque city jails.
In 2016, he was relieved from his post at the Parañaque City Jail after a blast which killed 10 detainees. In 2014, he was charged for firing his gun a restaurant in Malabon City, and in 2007, for allegedly trying to kill a teenager in Caloocan City.
With these issues, Sotto said Bantag could put an end to the corruption and illegal drug trade in the NBP.
“Ayaw ninyo noon? Pag naglagay kayo ng mabait doon, tingnan ninyo ang nangyayari. Maglagay ka ng matatakot sila (Don’t you like it? If you place a nice person there, just look at what will happen there. We should designate someone whom they will fear),” the Senate chief said in an interview with reporters Wednesday.
“I’d rather have someone like Bantag rather than an angel as BuCor chief. Tingnan natin kung kakayanin ng mga drug lord ngayon ‘yan. Matitigil ang kabulastugan doon (Let’s see if drug lords can handle him. All those schemes there will end),” he added.
2 convicts to yield
On Thursday, September 19, the Senate blue ribbon committee will continue its hearing on the “GCTA for Sale” controversy which branched out to other corrupt practices in the BuCor.
But aside from the testimony of former PNP-CIDG chief Benjamin Magalong, Sotto said two of the 1,914 heinous crime convicts freed through the GCTA may also speak about the mess.
The two convicts supposedly plan to surrender before the Senate.
“Dalawang surenderee, magkaiba, hindi sila magkasama, nagpasabi sa akin nung gustong sumurender. Hindi ko alam kung bakit sa akin pa susurender, o bakit sa amin pa sa Senado susurender…Baka takot o baka merong gusto munang ibunyag. Aabangan na rin namin bukas ng umaga,” Sotto said in an interview over radio DZMM Wednesday.
(There are two surrenderers – they do not know each other – who informed me that they want to surrender. I don’t know why they chose to surrender to me or the Senate. They might be fearing for their lives or wanted to reveal something first. We will wait for them tomorrow morning.)
Sotto rued how BuCor officials have initiated, if not engaged, the rackets in the Bilibid, including illegal drug trade.
“Talamak talaga ang corruption. Sapagkat halos talaga from top to bottom, nacocorrupt sila. Kung minsan doon pa sa kanila nanggagaling yung corruption. Di ba nakita ninyo, nag-aalok. Iba-iba nag-aalok, imbes na yung preso ang nag-aalok, naghahanap ng paraan, sila ang inaalok. Ganun din sa droga,” he lamented.
(Corruption is really prevalent because from top to bottom, officials are corrupted. Sometimes they are the ones making offers, as you found in the previous hearing. That instead of prisoners bribing them, finding ways, officers are the ones offering. That is also how it is in illegal drug transactions.)
Earlier, President Duterte ordered released heinous crime convicts to return to prison until September 19 or face arrest or be killed.
As of Tuesday, 692 convicts have surrendered.