Bureau of Corrections

Stabbed by Bantag: Prison gang leaders claim abuse by ex-BuCor chief

Jairo Bolledo
Stabbed by Bantag: Prison gang leaders claim abuse by ex-BuCor chief

SUSPENDED. Suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag shows up at the Department of Justice with his counsel, lawyer Rocky Balisong, to attend the continuation of the preliminary investigation into the killing of broadcaster Percival 'Percy Lapid' Mabasa, on December 5, 2022.

Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Another person deprived of liberty is also stabbed in Leyte after he failed to follow an order and retaliated against BuCor official Ricardo Zulueta

MANILA, Philippines – At least two inmates gave sworn affidavits detailing how suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag allegedly stabbed them, acting BuCor chief Gregorio Catapang said on Wednesday, December 21.

Kahapon, kinuhanan na namin ng sworn affidavit itong mga dalawa [na] sinaksak sa kamay at sa hita. Hopefully, mai-file namin before Friday ‘yong kaso rito na sa Muntinlupa, dito naman nangyari ‘yong krimen,” Catapang said during an interview with DZBB radio.

(Yesterday, we got the sworn affidavits of the two whose hands and legs were stabbed. Hopefully, we will file this before Friday in Muntinlupa, since the crime happened here.)

Bantag is facing murder complaints in relation to the killing of broadcaster Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman who contacted the gunmen in the Lapid case.

Catapang said he is also confident that there would be witnesses in the case, adding that BuCor superintendent Ricardo Zulueta, who is implicated in the killing of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, also has information about the incident.

Stabbed by Bantag: Prison gang leaders claim abuse by ex-BuCor chief

Marami naman mag-testify diyan. Imagine, doon nangyari ‘yan sa opisina niya (Bantag). Na-witness pa ‘yan ni Zulueta ‘tsaka ‘yong mga ibang tao. So kung kailangan ng karagdagang statements to collaborate ‘yong ano, siguro pati ‘yong hospital nai-record nila na talagang sinaksak sila,” the BuCor chief explained.

(A number of people can testify. Imagine, that happened inside Bantag’s office. Zulueta and others also witnessed that. So if we need additional statements to collaborate, maybe even the hospital has records proving that the victims were stabbed.)

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source on Thursday, December 22, Bantag’s lawyer, Rocky Balisong, said his client “does not remember” stabbing prisoners while serving as the corrections chief. 

“I was talking about that yesterday with him, and he said there’s none. We will just wait what complaints will be filed, but he does not remember anything about stabbing inmates,” Balisong said in a mix of English and Filipino. “In short he is denying participation in the stabbing.” 

On Monday, December 19, Bilibid gang leaders Jonathan Cañete of Batang Cebu and Ronald Usman of Batang Mindanao revealed that they were allegedly stabbed by Bantag. They said they were abused when they were summoned by Bantag along with other gang leaders to discuss the escape of prisoners in January.

Catapang provided more details on Wednesday: “Thirteen ‘yang commanders. Sinabi nila na lasing na raw si Bantag, umakyat sila sa taas. Sa kanila nabunton ‘yong galit.” (There were 13 commanders. They said Bantag was already drunk at that time, and when they went upstairs [to his office], the anger was redirected at them.)

‘Quota’ and another victim

Aside from the two gang leaders, Catapang said, another person deprived of liberty (PDL) was also stabbed in Leyte after Zulueta had him transferred there. The inmate said he had directed some harsh words at Zulueta at he failed to meet the “quota” imposed by the latter.

Catapang explained that a “quota” inside the New Bilibid Prison referred to the monthly amount of contrabands that gang commanders are allowed to be consignees of. Each of them could be a consignee of around P2 million to 4 million worth of contrabands, like alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, and drugs that can be sold inside the national penitentiary.

Catapang also claimed that it was Zulueta’s group, which is allegedly behind the smuggling of contrabands.

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Contrabands carry steep prices within prison walls. A beer inside Bilibid could cause P1,000 per can, based on the BuCor chief’s earlier revelation.

Doon sa grupo ni Zulueta kasi, sila ang nagpapasok ng mga kailangan ng mga PDL. Sinisingitan na nila ng mga illegal o mga ipinagbabawal [gaya ng] cellphone, sigarilyo, tabako, alak. Maniwala ka nga, ‘yong isang Black Label ‘ata ay ano P15,000 o P20,000,” the BuCor chief said.

(Zulueta’s group is responsible for the entry of items needed by PDLs. The sneak in contrabands like cellphones, cigarettes, tobacco and alcohol. Believe it or not, a Black Libel [whisky] could cost around P15,000 to P20,000.)

These are the latest accusations thrown at Bantag and his “right-hand man” Zulueta – on top of being the alleged masterminds in the deaths of Lapid and Villamor.

Bantag was also facing accusations of violating a Civil Service Commission memorandum after he absorbed personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and gave them higher ranks.

Shortly after Catapang took over, he also revealed that a deep excavation was found inside Bilibid. At first, Bantag said the hole will be used to build the deepest swimming pool in Metro Manila. Later on, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla said the hole was used to look for the Yamashita treasure. – Rappler.com

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering the police, crime, military, and security.