(Eagle News) – Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director-General Gerald Bantag vowed to clean the BuCor and the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP), with the help of other committed government and police personnel, despite threats to their safety and even to their family.
In an exclusive interview by Eagle News Service reporter Gerald Rañez, Bantag said that he values the trust given to him by President Rodrigo Duterte when he appointed him as Bucor chief.
How he fulfills this mandate carries with it his integrity and character, he said.
A graduate of the Philippine National Police Academy Class of 1996, Bantag said the PNPA and all the provinces he had served, his family’s roots, and his faith in God, are just some of the things he carries with him as he tries to remove all the illegal activities at the BuCor and the NBP.
He is a former warden of the Parañaque and Manila City jails. Prior to his appointment in BuCor, he served as head of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan).
Bantag had already relieved 353 personnel of the BuCor as part of the cleansing program he is implementing in the controversial bureau. He is also retraining the other officials who remained.
He has also ordered the demolition of the illegal “kubols” and shanties constructed by the prisoners, especially those considered influential before inside the NBP.
All these illegal activities, including the illegal drug trade, have to stop, Bantag said.
“Alam naman nilang bawal yun. Alam naman nating nagbayad sila dyan. Kalokohang hindi. Ano bang sinasabi sa senado? Puro aomalya, lahat binabayaran,” he said.
Bantag said that the illegal kubol and other structures that he is demolishing should not be a surprise to the maximum compound inmates who know that these are not allowed in the first place.
“Matanggal man yun. Dapat hindi sila sumama ang loob dahil alam nga nila na illegal yun,” he said.
Bantag said the prisoners before his time, had been putting up structures inside, just because they want a place of their own, and as a venue for their illegal activities.
While this was tolerated in the previous administration, he would put a stop to it.
During the demolition of the stuctures, explosions were heard caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Authorities also recovered grenades and blasting caps.
But this would not hamper the continuous demolition of these structures, Bucor officials said.
BuCor spokesperson Atty. Wena Fe Dalagan said that they have recovered drugs, money and other contraband during their inspection and clearing operations inside the NBP.
“Ito yung pinaka-priority natin ngayon so that we can effect other plans and programs para sa paglinis natin sa Bureau of Corrections. Ini-expect din natin na meron silang mga adverse reaction pero naipaliwanag natin na ito pong mga istrukturang ito ay mga kontrabando in the first place,” Dalagan said.
“Ang mga structure na yan ay accumulated through the years, kaya panahon na para linisin ang BuCor,” she said.
Dalagan said receiving death threats is already part of their work as they are dealing with hardened and convicted criminals.
“We are dealing with criminals and with convicted individuals. Dahil very aggressive ang administrasyon ngayon, hindi po maiiwasan na maeron tayong nasasagasaan. Handa naman po ang mga kawani ng gobyerno sa dakong ito,” she said.
She explained that Bucor officials under the leadership of Bantag recognize the so-called human rights of the prisoners.
“Tayo po ay very much eager to reach out sa kanila, dahil we recognize mga karapatan rin nila,” Dalagan said.
She also explained that in their clearing operations, BuCor is interested in “implementing equality” among the persons deprived with liberty (PDL) or the inmates inside NBP.
Before the clearing operations, the rich inmates were able to erect structures for their convenience, and they were treating poor PDLs as their servants.
Dalagan said that Bantag is also serious in eliminating the previous practice of accepting bribes in the bureau.
“Mahigpit pinagbabawal ang panunuhol. Hindi sya mangingiming ipataw ang administrative punishment sa gagawa nito,” she said.
Bantag said that in cleaning the BuCor and the NBP, he will follow the law.
And he will be aided by policemen from the National Capital Region Police Office, as well as other personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
He said he will not be hampered by the lack of personnel in the BuCor in implementing change and cleaning its ranks.
“May batas tayo kasi. Pumunta ka rito, kulang ng dalawang kamay, pati paa wala. Gumaan lang dahil sa kasamahan sa pulisya,” Bantag said.
“Hindi ko kaya mag-isa ito,” he said.
If he succeeds in cleaning BuCor and the NBP, credit should go to all those who helped him, he said.
(Based on an exclsuive video report by Gerald Ranez, Eagle News Service)