BuCor exec mum on suggestion that DOJ fully control bureau

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2022 04:39 PM

Members of the officers and staff of the administration of the New Bilibid Prison of the Bureau of Corrections in Muntinlupa City, stand at attention during the flag ceremony as they hold their 117th Founding Anniversary on November 14, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Members of the officers and staff of the administration of the New Bilibid Prison of the Bureau of Corrections in Muntinlupa City, stand at attention during the flag ceremony as they hold their 117th Founding Anniversary on November 14, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Wednesday declined to comment on the suggestion of Solicitor-General Menardo Guevarra that the justice department should have full control of the bureau, following the anomalies there. 

When asked about Guevarra's comment — who was a former justice secretary — BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang said he "has no comment about it." 

"Kasi higher-ups po iyan. Sumusunod lang ako kung ano ang kautusan," Catapang said during a public briefing. 

"For now, ang utos sa atin ni SOJ ay decongest, segregate and then, implement reforms in the BUCOR. Iyon po ang marching orders sa akin ni Secretary Remulla," he added. 

Guevarra over the weekend reportedly said there was a need for the Department of Justice to overhaul the system inside the Bureau of Corrections because of the anomalies there. 

He also suggested that Congress should consider bringing back the full authority of the agency over BuCor, and not just mere supervision. This was his same suggestion in 2019

Republic Act 10575, enacted in 2013, removed DOJ’s control over BuCor and merely retained its administrative supervision of the controversy-hit agency. 

The BuCor supervises and manages the state penitentiary.

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When asked what the BuCor will do to reform the agency, Catapang said he is already trying to remove the supposed "fiefdom" in the bureau. 

"Nabanggit na ni President Marcos na nagkaroon ng fiefdom dito sa BuCor na napatunayan naman po natin. Nagsimula po sila sa cabal isang grupo sila na pumasok dito and then ginawa nilang sindikato na itong grupo nila," said Catapang. 

"Kanya-kaniya na po silang kaharian ng units o penal colony, which we are now proving, na napapatunayan naman ngayon," he added.

This developed after 2 prison officials were accused of ordering the killing of a prominent radio journalist.

Police have accused the suspended BuCor chief of ordering the murder of veteran radio commentator Percival “Percy Lapid” C. Mabasa.

Police alleged BuCor director general Gerald Bantag, who is currently suspended from duty, was behind the murder along with his deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta.

Dozens of unclaimed corpses of other New Bilibid Prison inmates were also recently discovered at a BuCor-accredited funeral home in Muntinlupa City.

Aside from this, an excavation was found near the official residence of Bantag in Bilidid after he was suspended as director general of BuCor. It is estimated to be 197 feet deep and 40 meters wide.

Bantag had denied that the pit is for treasure hunting purpose nor an escape tunnel for inmates but for scuba diving