FREED. Suspended Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag (center) poses with some of the 371 inmates granted clemency or who have served out their sentences at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City on Sept. 13, 2022. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla attended the ceremony but is now being accused by Bantag of trying to ease him out of office. (Courtesy of BuCor)

MANILA – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said on Tuesday that reforms are needed to halt the long-standing culture of entitlement among Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) officials.

BuCor controversies that have undermined public trust are getting worse, Remulla said in a news channel interview.

He cited the attempted takeover of public property inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) compound in Muntinlupa City.

“They treated the land as their own, even before (the term of suspended BuCor) DG (Director General Gerald) Bantag. Ang tendency ng mga tao diyan sa BuCor, pati ‘yung past generations diyan, angkinin ‘yung lupa (The tendency of the people in BuCor, even in past generations, was to take over the property),” Remulla said.

Aside from unauthorized constructions, he said, BuCor’s electricity supply was being diverted into illegally constructed houses.

“They were depriving the BuCor of electricity by making it pass through 200 houses that were constructed there. Ang sinasabi ko dito, ‘yung culture of entitlement ng Bilibid, matindi na talaga. Ini-iskwatan na 'yan eh (What I am saying is that the culture of entitlement in the NBP is really bad. They are squatting there),” he said.

The illegal houses, Remulla said, were occupied by BuCor personnel themselves or rented out.

Electricity theft within the BuCor was one of the exposes made by slain broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, according to Remulla.

Bantag, deputy security officer Ricardo Zulueta, and persons deprived of liberty are facing murder charges for the deaths of Mabasa and inmate Jun Villamor, supposedly the middleman in the slay.

The preliminary investigations on the twin deaths are set at 9 a.m. on November 23 and at 1 p.m. on December 5.

Mabasa was gunned down on his way home inside his vehicle in Las Piñas City while Villamor died at the NBP Hospital, just a few days apart in October.

BuCor officer in charge Gregorio Catapang bared several anomalies discovered inside the NBP, including a deep excavation, improvised bladed weapons in the possession of inmates, electronic devices, and thousands of canned beer. (PNA)