By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
After appointing Gerald Bantag as new head of the Bureau of Corrections, President Duterte has ordered a full revamp at BuCor in a bid to rid the agency of corruption.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte told him that the guards at the national penitentiary would be assigned to the province while those from the province will report to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“Gagawa siya ng directive niyan, ‘pag ganiyan. Basta total revamp. He’ll remove all of them there. Remove yung mga opisyales, mga empleyado (He will issue a directive. It’s going to be a total revamp. He will remove all of them there including the officials and employees),” he added.
“Because of the corruption there. He wants to stop it,” Panelo said.
“Basta tatanggalin sila doon. Ang importante doon wala na sila roon (They will be removed. The important thing is they’re not there anymore),” he added.
Panelo also doubted that the President would extend BuCor personnel the courtesy to meet them unlike when he met the people from the Bureau of Customs (BOC) early this year.
“I don’t think he wants to meet with them,” he said.
Bantag already has his hands full even before he could take his oath of office.
President Duterte warned he would crucify Bantag in the middle of the compound if he fails to rid the national penitentiary of illegal drugs as most drug activities in the Greater Manila Area come from the NBP.
Duterte said that he would put Bantag to the test by cleaning the BuCor without a committee to address the problem.
“I will have to confer with the guy. Hindi ako mahilig diyang committee-committee, walang mangyari niyan (I don’t like having those committees because nothing really happens with them). You cannot even attend a meeting that there’s a quorum. Wala (Nothing happens, really),” he said Tuesday evening.
“Ako gusto ko tao lang, isang tao lang. Itong si ano, si – [Sinong pangalan nito?] Si Bantag. Bantag. I’ll just talk to him. Sabihin ko kung hindi mo kaya, ikaw ang ipako ko sa krus diyan sa gitna ng compound (I only want one person to handle it. Bantag. I’ll just talk to him. I’ll tell him that if he cannot do it, then I will crucify him at the middle of that compound),” he added.
According to the President, ridding the national penitentiary of illegal drugs has been the problem of every person who handled the BuCor.
“A fourth of the drug activity in Manila, Greater Manila, is being controlled by prisoners who are inside the national penitentiary sa (of the) BuCor, ‘yan ang masiguro ninyo (you can be sure of that),” Duterte said.
“And everybody who has been there, who has had the chance to be the manager there, hirap na hirap. So tignan ko. Inaabuso nila (Found it difficult to stop it. So the people inside are abusing it), I am sure that this guy from BJMP would know what to do,” he added, referring to Bantag.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra who exercises control over the BuCor has three marching orders for Bantag – clean up the GCTA (Good Conduct Time Allowance) mess, full computerization of the BuCor, and stop illegal drug trade inside the national penitentiary.
“I met with BuCor DG Bantag for the first time this morning,” Guevarra told reporters Wednesday.
“I left it to him to decide kung kailan at kung kanino nya ibig mag-take ng oath (when and before whom to take oath),” Guevarra said.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Bantag, a former jail warden may just be who the BuCor) needs to end the money-making schemes at the NBP.
“I heard he has a reputation of being a strict enforcer. That’s what the BuCor needs,” he said of Bantag Tuesday.
Sotto welcomed Bantag’s appointment as new BuCor chief.
Bntag served as jail warden of the Manila, Malabon, and Parañaque city jails.
In 2016, he was relieved from his post in Parañaque City Jail following an explosion that 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.
“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.
As the deadline for surrender ends Thursday, President Duterte has offered a P1-million bounty for the capture of every convict freed due to the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law if they fail to surrender to authorities.
The President admitted he prefers the wanted convicts to be presented to him dead, adding he would gladly pay the huge reward.
“I will just set the timeline and then P1 million prize is available to those who can capture them dead or alive but maybe dead will be a better option,” he said during a press conference at the Palace.
“I will pay you smiling. Ibalik ko ‘yan sa preso, makikain pa yan [If I bring them back to jail, I have to feed them],” he said.
Last September 4, the President asked more than 1,700 heinous crime convicts freed early for good behavior to surrender in 15 days. If they refuse to surrender, Duterte warned that inmates will be considered fugitives and will be rearrested by authorities.
Of the 1,914 convicts released due to GCTA, the DOJ said 692 have surrendered and are now in the custody of the Bureau of Corrections. (With reports from Jeffrey G. Damicog, Vanne Elaine P. Terrazola, and Genalyn D. Kabiling)