First it was a swimming pool for scuba divers like himself. That’s how Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag explained the deep excavation in BuCor. Now, it turns out it was also intended for something else, according to Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla.
In an interview with reporters on Friday, November 18, Remulla said Bantag told him that the hole inside the national penitentiary was intended to be used in the search for the so-called “Yamashita treasure.”
“By the way, that was supposed to be a treasure hunt for Yamashita treasure. Originally. I was told by Director General Bantag about it. And I told him to stop it. I told him to stop it,” Remulla told reporters. “It was supposed to be a treasure hunt. That’s what he told me before. ‘Yon ang sinabi niya sa akin (That’s what he told me). Maybe sometime August or September.”
This is the latest information about the Bilibid excavation that was first revealed by acting BuCor chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. After Catapang’s revelation, Bantag said he ordered the excavation because he wants to build the deepest swimming pool in Metro Manila, adding that he is a master scuba diver. (READ: Bantag says he ordered excavation in Bilibid to build ‘deepest’ pool in metro)
In a message to reporters, former DOJ secretary and now Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra said Bantag never told him about the treasure hunt while he was still justice secretary. Bantag first served as corrections chief during Guevarra’s term.
“Nothing of that sort was ever mentioned to me when I was SOJ (secretary of justice).”
What about permits?
When asked if Bantag’s treasure hunt had a permit, Remulla said he “doesn’t know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I have so much on my hands. I cannot inspect every inch of spare ground in Bilibid,” the DOJ chief explained, adding that Bantag only informed him about the so-called treasure hunt.
If indeed Bantag did treasure hunting inside the national penitentiary, which is owned by the government, he should have secured a permit from authorities.
Under the law, the National Museum of the Philippines regulates treasure hunting and activities concerning cultural properties. This is based on Republic Act No. 4846 or the Cultural Properties Preservation and Protection Act as amended by Presidential Decree (PD) No. 374 signed in 1974.
Meanwhile, PD No. 1726-A of 1980 says that treasure hunting is not allowed within government properties “except upon prior authority of the President of the Philippines.” Any person who will want to do treasure hunting “must first file an application for a permit with the Legal Office, Office of the President and shall sign a contract governing the disposition of all monies, articles and things of value which may be found.”
On the permit for the excavation itself, Remulla earlier said the project has no legal basis and did not undergo proper bidding. Bantag earlier said the project was in cooperation with private firm “ATOM.”
Remulla reiterated that the project cannot be considered as having a valid contract, adding that it was unenforceable.
During Friday’s interview, the DOJ chief said they will also inform the Office of the Ombudsman about the recent developments involving Bantag.
“Siyempre (Of course), the Ombudsman will be informed of all of these developments. It’s our duty to inform the Ombudsman of all of these developments because apparently, some of them are not even legal bound.”
The search for the so-called Yamashita treasure isn’t new. According to linguistic anthropologist Piers Kelly of Max Planck Institute of the Science of Human History in Germany, legend says that General Yamashita of Japan concealed his gold loot in the Philippines during World War II.
Kelly, however, said there is no solid historical evidence to show that such gold actually existed in physical form.
Even the Marcos family has been tagged in posts containing disinformation about the Yamashita treasure. Aside from the nonexistent Tallano gold, the claim that late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ fortune came from the Yamashita treasure turned out to be a hoax.
Rappler fact-checked the claim that the late dictator kept both the Yamashita treasure and Adolf Hitler’s gold. The article said there is no evidence proving that Yamashita has tons of gold and that there aren’t enough records to prove that the late dictator sctually received “Nazi gold.” – Rappler.com