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After days of silence, suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General (DG) Gerald Bantag finally responded to the allegations against him. He also urged Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla to resign.
“Parang gusto kong magmura eh. Sinungaling ka, SOJ (Secretary of Justice)! Mag-step down ka na, ‘yan ang challenge ko. Wala ka na raw credibility, wala ka nang moral ascendancy sa puwesto mo,” Bantag said on Friday, November 11, in an interview with SMNI, owned by US fugitive Apollo Quiboloy.
(I feel like cursing. You’re a liar, SOJ. I challenge you to step down. They say you don’t have credibility anymore, you no longer have moral ascendancy in your post.)
This is the first time Bantag publicly appeared after he was slapped with murder complaints for the deaths of hard-hitting broadcaster Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor, the alleged middleman in the Lapid case. Authorities said Bantag was the alleged mastermind behind the killings.
In a press conference on Friday, DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said “nobody wanted the evidence to point” to Bantag, adding that Bantag’s claims were influenced by a “sense of betrayal.”
“The Department of Justice (DOJ) understands the predicament of DG Bantag. His words and actions, no matter how personal and inappropriate, come from a misguided sense of betrayal. There is only one issue at hand, the related murders of Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor,” Clavano said.
“Let us not muddle the issue, let us not clutch at straws,” he added.
Besides his call for Remulla to step down, Bantag also brought up the alleged drug offense of Remulla’s son, accusing the DOJ chief himself of being a marijuana user and importer.
“Dahil sa anak mo. Nasa’n na? I-press con mo rin. Ang sabi ng mga tao, baka nga raw may lumitaw na middleman din diyan sa kaso ng anak mo. At baka mayro’n ding mastermind sa anak mo.” (Because of your son. Where is he? You should hold a press conference, too. People say there might also be a middleman who would appear in the case of your son. And there could also be a mastermind.)
Bantag charged: “At sabi ng taong-bayan, baka ikaw raw ‘yong mastermind ng pag-i-import ng marijuana. Dahil alam ng mga kababayan namin, no’ng lumayas ka rito, ano ang ginagawa mo? ‘Di ba gumagamit ka ng marijuana, SOJ Boying Remulla?“
(People say you might be the mastermind in the importation of marijuana. Because our fellow locals know, when you left, what did you do? Don’t you use marijuana, SOJ Boying Remulla?)
Prior to Bantag’s tirades against Remulla, the DOJ chief already told the suspended corrections chief to face his complaints. Remulla said Bantag should man up and avoid all the drama.
In his Friday remarks, Bantag also called Remulla a disgrace to the DOJ.
“Step down. Wala ka nang credibility. Disgrace ka sa DOJ. Ginagamit mo ang DOJ para sumikat ka, ano para sa 2025? Kawawa naman ang DOJ, Mr. Secretary.” (Step down. You don’t have credibility. You are a disgrace to the DOJ. You’re using the DOJ to become famous, what for, for 2025? The DOJ is pitiful, Mr. Secretary.)
Rappler sought comments from the justice department, but DOJ spokesperson Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano said they will hold a press conference this Friday at 4 pm.
More allegations vs Remulla
Bantag as target. The suspended BuCor chief alleged that he is being targeted because Remulla supposedly wants control over drug lords inside the national penitentiary: “Kaya challenge ‘to, bumaba ka na. Kasi ako rin, target ninyo ng grupo mo, ha?…. BuCor, para kontrolin ninyo ‘yong drug lords doon?“
(That’s why my challenge is, you should step down. Because I am being targeted by your group. In Bucor, you want to control drug lords there?)
On Catapang. According to Bantag, as early as August this year, certain people wanted Gregorio Catapang Jr., now acting BuCor chief, to replace Bantag. The former military chief replaced Bantag at the height of the Lapid probe.
“Gusto nila ‘kong palitan nitong Catapang way back August. Alam na pala niya ‘yan. Binibigyan ko siya sana ng resignation ko, ayaw naman niya.” (They wanted Catapang to replace me way back August. Remulla already knew about that. I gave him my resignation but he rejected it.)
During the Friday press conference, Clavano confirmed that Bantag resigned. However, the DOJ spokesperson said Remulla insisted that Bantag remain in his post.
“DG Bantag claims that when the new administration entered, he tendered a courtesy resignation. However, it was Secretary Remulla who showed his outright support and insisted that the Director-General remain in his post under the new leadership.”
Remulla allegedly has money from a POGO (Philippine Offshore Gaming Operators). Bantag also said Remulla has been using the issue to gain exposure for the upcoming midterm elections. He added the DOJ chief also sold his property to a POGO operator.
“Dahil, sabi ng taong-bayan din, sufficient na raw ‘yong pera mo no’ng binenta mo ‘yong Island Cove mo na ginagamit ngayon ng POGO operator na mga Chinese. So, sabi ng taong-bayan, maraming pera ‘yan, kailangan lang niya exposure para sa 2025,” the suspended corrections chief said.
(Because the people also said, your [Remulla] money is sufficient because you sold your Island Cove that is now being used by Chinese POGO operators. So the people say, you have a lot of money, you just need exposure for 2025.)
Bantag also recanted his earlier statement that he and the government should just kill each other – as a response to initial information connecting him to Lapid’s death.
“I will take this opportunity rin na i-correct, itama ko ‘yong nakaraan. Dahil out of frustration ko, sabi ko, lalaban ako sa gobyernong ito. Kalokohan ‘yon. Sino ba naman ako para lumaban sa gobyerno. Maliit ako. Kakagat oo, pero hindi sa gobyerno, sa mga sindikato.”
(I will take this opportunity to correct my statements earlier. Because of my frustration, I said, I will fight against this government. That’s foolishness. Who am I to fight the government? I am small fry. I will bite, yes, but not this government, but syndicates.
The suspended BuCor chief alleged that Remulla ordered the pullout of a prisoner inside the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP): German Agojo, who is under the Witness Protection Program.
Bantag said Joel Escorial, the self-confessed gunman, is connected to Agojo: “At ang gunman, related or connected itong German Agojo dito sa Villamor na namatay at dito sa kaibigang Escorial. Sila ang involved sa pagkamatay ng isang judge sa Tagaytay, Cavite.“
(And the gunman, German Agojo, is connected to Villamor and Escorial. They are involved in the killing of a judge in Tagaytay, Cavite.)
According to Bantag, Agojo’s subordinates are the ones who killed Lapid.
“‘Yong pumatay kay Percy Lapid ay tauhan nitong Agojo na pinakuha ni Sec. Boying sa NBI (National Bureau of Investigation). Ano papel niya sa buhay? Tauhan daw niya ‘yong pumatay na si Escorial at si Villamor na kaibigan niya.”
(Those who killed Percy Lapid are men of Agojo, who were pulled out by the NBI upon Sec. Boying’s orders. What’s his role? Escorial is his (Agojo’s) man while Villamor is his friend.)
The prisoner from ISAFP being tagged in the case is not new. The DOJ already mentioned over a week ago that a prisoner from the military facility is being considered as a person of interest, along with 12 others.
Bantag unleashed his accusations despite Remulla’s statement on Wednesday that the former BuCor chief, along with superintendent Ricardo Zulueta – another BuCor official tagged in the case – should not respond to the allegations through the media.
The DOJ chief said officials should respond through counter-affidavits – which Bantag and Zulueta have yet to file. – Rappler.com