Bureau of Corrections Chief Undersecretary Gerald Bantag could be held liable for allegedly overstepping his authority when he fenced off a national road and ordered informal settlers to vacate areas within the alleged National Bilibid Prison.
At the conclusion of the hearings conducted by Committee on Justice on the controversies, panel chairman and Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso said Bantag’s claim that the NBP owns the 3.1 hectare land where the national prison compound is located remains “a dream.”
Bukidnon 2nd District Rep. Jonathan Keith Flores, committee vice chairman, pointed out during the hearing that the property which was sealed off on orders of Bantag remains to be owned by the national government as indicated by the original titles presented by the Register of Deeds of Muntinlupa.
A reliable committee source said the House panel will discuss whether or not to recommend the filing of administrative and criminal charges against Bantag.
The fencing off of the Insular National Road has isolated over 40,000 people because their access to the city was cut off and they have to travel additional ten kilometers to reach the city proper.
Jap Landingin, leader of the affected informal settler community, said many of them have lost their jobs while access to medical assistance at the height of the CoVID 19 crisis was practically nil. He said ten residents of Southville 3 have died due to COVID 19.
Bantag insisted that under Republic Act 10575 Bucor had been given the right to secure and develop the NBP land that has has shrunk from the original 5.3 hectares to the current 3.1 hectares.
The jail official stressed that he reached the decision to fence off the area because it is his duty to secure the prison compound that holds thousands of convicted prisoners.
However, based on the testimony of Register of Deeds Silverio Garing, it turned out that neither NBP nor Bucor had any property titled under the name of the said agencies in the city’s land record repository.
The Department of Public Works and HIghways represented in the hearing by Elpidio Trinidad confirmed that the NBP was wrong in fencing off Insular Road because this is a national road.
“We are asking the help of higher authorities to have the road reopened,” said Trinidad.
Following an intense grilling of NBP officials that included bureau legal officer Randy Serrano, Flores noted that RA 10575 granted Bucor the power to develop and secure the said land but had also specifically directed the agency to have the property title transferred under its name.
Serrano admitted that they have not yet done so although he insisted that a transfer certificate of title is not the only manner by which a property can be acquired.
“There were several instances when presidents (Ramos and Arroyo) gave away portions of the supposed NBP property because it is still in the name of the national government and not the NBP,” explained Flores.
He slammed Serrano’s justification of ownership of the property, pointing out that it was clearly the intention of RA 10575 to direct BuCor to have the title transferred under its name which was not done by the bureau.
Veloso, a retired Court of Appeals justice, pointed out: “If the owner is the Republic of the Philippines and Bucor’s claim of ownership is still a dream, only the owner has the right to demolish the concrete fence for being illegal.”
He said the LGU also has the authority to protect the general welfare of its constituents and consider actions to be taken via abatement of a public nuisance.