Plunder raps lodged vs. Bantag, 6 other BuCor officers

By Benjamin Pulta

February 6, 2023, 6:32 pm

<p>Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan <em>(Courtesy of IPPF-PIO Facebook)</em></p>

Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan (Courtesy of IPPF-PIO Facebook)

MANILA – Suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag was slapped Monday with plunder, malversation, falsification and graft charges related to a PHP900-million project.

Acting BuCor director general, Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., filed the multiple suits before the Department of Justice against Bantag, technical superintendent Arnold Jacinto Guzman, inspectors Ric Rocacurba and Solomon Areniego, and technical officers Jor-el de Jesus, Angelo Castillo and Alexis Catindig.

The project involved the construction in three prison facilities -- Davao Prison and Penal Farm, Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and Leyte Regional Prison -- with an estimated cost of PHP300 million each.

The contract supposedly violated Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Act when it created a separate BuCor Bidding and Award Committee led by a non-permanent BuCor employee and No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

“Respondent Bantag, in conspiracy with, and with indispensable complicity of, the other herein respondents, has purposely and systematically orchestrated the diversion/misappropriation and/or consenting or permitting other persons, to take public funds of the Bureau of Corrections,” the complaint stated.

The supposed rigged public bidding declared as eligible the joint ventures of CB Garay Philweb Builders/Rakki Corporation and CB Garay Philweb -Eric Van Sesbrano Construction.

Out of the PHP900 million project, around PHP273 million more or less were allegedly misappropriated by Bantag and his co-respondents, the suit stated.

The falsified accomplishment reports stated that the government paid around 93 percent (PHP264 million) for Iwahig where in fact, only 57 percent were completed; 95 percent (PHP269 million) for Davao where only around 59 percent were completed; and around 80 percent (PHP233 million) for Leyte where only 47 percent of the work were done.

Bantag, appointed BuCor chief in September 2019, was suspended for allegedly orchestrating the October 2022 slay of broadcaster Percival "Ka Percy Lapid" Mabasa.

Bantag denied all the charges, including ordering the killing of inmate Jun Villamor, the supposed middleman. (PNA)