BuCor chief: 'If 'squatters' can build shanties at NBP, let me build mine at military camp'

Published July 4, 2021, 12:00 PM

by Ben Rosario

If the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will be prevented from dismantling shanties built by informal settlers within the National Bilibid Prison (NBP) area in Muntinlupa City, BuCor chief Undersecretary Gerald Bantag said he should also be given the same right to build a house inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Bantag’s line of reasoning stunned members of the House Committee on Justice during a recent inquiry into the NBP decisions to demolish a colony of informal settlers within its over 300 hectare property in Muntinlupa and the sealing off of a national road also within its jurisdiction.

Grilled by justice panel members over the controversial wall construction that cut access to Insular Prison Road, Bantag insisted that the law gives BuCor the authority to do what it takes to secure the NBP compound.

On his order to demolish shanties put up by informal settlers within the NBP land, Bantag explained that they are convinced that the “squatters” are “security risks” and source of illegal drugs among NBP prisoners.

“Kung papayagan sila mga informal settlers na tinatawag na squatters magtayo sa property ng NBP, payagan din nila ako magtayo ng bahay sa Camp Aguinaldo. Ang tanong, papayag kaya sila? (If the informal settlers called squatters are permitted to erect on NBP property, they should also allow me to put up a house at Camp Aguinaldo. The question is, will they allow this?),” said Bantag in justifying his decision to drive away informal settlers from the NBP property.

Unconvinced, justice committee chairman and Leyte Rep. Vicente “Ching” Veloso stressed that demolishing the property of informal settlers without giving them sufficient notice and without offering them a resettlement area violates the Lina Law.

Veloso, a retired Court of Appeals associate justice, cited provisions of the Lina Law, Revised Civil Code and the anti-graft law, among others, as among those being violated by BuCor officials when they sealed off the supposed NBP property by constructing a fence cutting across a national road.

Veloso described the fence a “nuisance” that the Department of Public Works may demolish anytime to protect public welfare.

“Pakiusap ko na lang, ayusin na ninyo iyan. Ayaw namin sa Congress na magkasakitan kayo, ayusin ninyo iyan ngayon. (I appeal to you, do what is right. We do not want in Congress to make the situation worse, fix it now),” said Velasco.

The House panel is convinced the BuCor continues to violate numerous national and local laws by building the wall but the House panel failed to approve a motion demanding the dismantling of the allegedly illegal structures.

Taking the cue from Veloso, Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon said that since the Bucor had committed various violations of the law, he was moving for the committee to direct the Department of Justice agency to dismantle the “barricades, walls and whatever they have put up to block the national road.” The House panel failed to second the motion, prompting committee vice chairman and Bukidnon 2nd District Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores to offer that motion be included in the panel report of the congressional inquiry.

Flores slammed Bantag for insisting that there has been coordination with the Muntinlupa City local government prior to the construction of the wall on Insular Prison Road.

The concrete wall cut off access of residents of Southville 3 to and from the city proper.

“What you did was coordinate after the fact or after the construction has been completed,” Flores said.