Bureau of Corrections

[The Slingshot] The singular defining moment of Gerald Bantag

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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[The Slingshot] The singular defining moment of Gerald Bantag
'Bantag is the picture-perfect poster boy of impunity'

To look into the damaged character of Gerald Bantag, one only needs to see his sympathetic interview by the overtly partisan Anthony Taberna.

Taberna asked Bantag, “Who will benefit from killing Percy Lapid?”

Ang unang makikinabang diyan ay ‘yang gusto akong masibak diyan (The ones who will benefit the most are those who want me ousted).”

If we go by his bizarre logic, Percy Lapid was assassinated so that he, Bantag, would be ousted from his position as BuCor director general. In other words, Lapid was just a sacrificial lamb.

For drawing on sympathy to Bantag, “Ibalik si Bantag sa BuCor” (Return Bantag to the Bureau of Corrections) was a comment oft repeated by Taberna’s viewers.

In actual reality, however, inmates are the ones sycophantic to the director general. Bilibid gangs who obey kill orders do so in exchange for their freedom.

Bantag is the picture-perfect poster boy of impunity. While he was an official of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in 2014, Bantag refused to pay his bill in a restaurant and fired his gun. The Malabon prosecutor’s office charged him with estafa and illegal discharge of firearm.

His record was no longer immaculate even at that time. In 2007, when he was chief of the Navotas City BJMP, he was charged with attempted murder by the Navotas prosecutor’s office.

Bantag believes in the narco state plot that Duterte advanced, however incredible. It was only natural for him to be handpicked as obedient laborer for the kill, kill, kill perversion of Dutertismo. “Kami’y humuhugot ng tapang under President Digong (We mustered up courage under President Digong),” describing his pet presidential administration.

So what transpired during his watch as BuCor director general? In July 2020, nine high-profile inmates died one after another allegedly due to the coronavirus. Among the dead was Jaybee Sebastian, a key witness in what is popularly held as the Duterte-orchestrated drug trafficking charges against former senator Leila de Lima. Speculations were raised that they were either eliminated or released secretly. The bodies of the inmates were immediately cremated. The report of the National Bureau of Investigation said that, “murder, not COVID, killed the inmates.”

“All the deceased prisoners were declared dead on arrival, the cause of death either by cardiac or pulmonary arrest. However, a close examination of the medical profile of the deceased high-profile prisoners generally revealed that they exhibited neither chronic symptoms of COVID-19, difficulty in breathing, nor were they observed to be weak or particularly ill,” the NBI report concluded.

In the Taberna interview, Bantag also admitted that donors had been giving him money which had accumulated over time.

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‘Gunman’ says a certain Bantag ordered them to kill Percy Lapid

Percy Lapid used the blind item approach in his September 5 broadcast (beginning 8:56). He called the subject of his exposé “Ang lalakeng (The male) Cinderella.” Blind items are bait. They work according to the “bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan huwag magalit” syndrome. Instead of keeping quiet, Bantag felt alluded to and took the bait.

That was an effective admission that he had the motive to kill Percy Lapid. Charging him with murder is on target. But will it mollify the widespread perception that he is only the ultimate middleman among middlemen, that the murder trail extends to one higher than him who was day-in and day-out in the five-days-a-week Lapid Fire broadcasts labeled as “Digongnyo?” Rodrigo Duterte had the motive to silence Percy Lapid.

“Do you want to know who I will recommend to the president to be the chief of the Bureau of Corrections?” Bong Go said in September 2019. “Basta killer, dapat killer.” Game over. – Rappler.com

Antonio J. Montalván II is a social anthropologist who advocates that keeping quiet when things go wrong is the mentality of a slave, not a good citizen.

1 comment

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  1. ET

    Thanks Mr. A.J. Montalvan II for this very analytic article. Gen. Bantag is more likely “the ultimate Middleman among middlemen.” End of Story.

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