MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed additional charges of plunder, graft, malversation of public funds, grave misconduct, and dishonesty against suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag over allegedly misused funds for prison facilities.
Aside from Bantag, DOJ also filed the same raps against 5 other BuCor officials,, namely C/Insp. Ric Rocabura, CO1 Solomon Areniego, CTO1 Jor-el de Jesus, CTO2 Angelo Castillo, and CTO Alexis Catindig.
According to a DOJ document dated Feb. 4, Bantag and the other charged officials were allegedly complicit in the "unlawful and malicious falsification of official documents that resulted in the misappropriation" of BuCor funds intended for the construction of facilities at the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, the Davao Prison and Penal Farm, and the Leyte Regional Prison.
The construction project had a total budget of P1 billion, with P300 million allotted to each prison. Its bidding was done in 2020.
"They knowingly connived with, and/or consented to the commission of violation of laws, rules, and regulations that resulted in the loss of government funds," the document read.
"Such dishonest acts of altering, concealing or distorting the truth on [matters] relevant to their office, or connected with the performance of their duties, caused serious damage and grave prejudice to the government and the same constitute," it added.
Acting prisons chief Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. and his legal team led the filing of the charges.
BuCor legal counsel Al Parreras said there was a "conspiracy" among Bantag and the other co-accused to make it appear that the projects had already been completed when they were not.
“The 3 projects [had] falsified accomplishment reports. For example, at Iwahig, the government paid about 93 percent where in fact only 57 percent was completed. With respect to Davao, 95 percent had been already paid, where in truth and in fact only about 57 percent were completed and for the Leyte (project) about 80 percent was already paid by the government and only 47 percent was completed,” he said.
Parreras also noted that this was the 4th case filed against Bantag over alleged anomalies that happened during his watch as prisons chief.
As of writing, Bantag's camp and his co-accused have yet to comment on the matter.
The new charges come as Bantag continues to face murder raps over the killing of broadcaster Percival "Percy Lapid" Mabasa and New Bilibid Prison inmate Jun Villamor, who was tagged as a "middle man" in Mabasa's slay.
Bantag had previously been tagged as the alleged mastermind in the broadcaster's murder.
Bantag's successor Catapang had said that his predecessors "failed" in their mission to protect the welfare of inmates following Villamor's death.
Last January, Bantag also faced another complaint after 5 officials from the Iwahig prison accused him of torture in 2020.
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