Bureau of Corrections

[The Slingshot] The smokescreens of Gerald Bantag

Antonio J. Montalvan II

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[The Slingshot] The smokescreens of Gerald Bantag

Alejandro Edoria/Rappler

'If there are no masterminds higher than Bantag, why would DDS trolls bother to wage a troll-generated shower of paid and fake praises on Bantag?'

How on earth was Gerald Bantag able to get appointed as Director General of the Bureau of Corrections?

Answer: Bong Go. “Basta killer,” the senator repeatedly said when asked in 2019 who Rodrigo Duterte should appoint as BuCor chief. “Gusto ko sya. Kasi nagtatapon ng granada,” followed Duterte with an aired public statement. How does a sane person make out such statements except to think they were stimulations – incitements – to extrajudicial killing?

Bantag refers to Duterte as “mahal na pangulo,” Go as “mahal na senador.” He also talks like them: longwindedly in a veneer of tough talk imaging, laced with P.I. expletives, and then loads of gossipy statements.

But, eyes on the board, readers. Since being named as the mastermind in the Percy Lapid and Jun Villamor killings, Bantag has successfully diverted our attention away from the important issue of justice for Lapid and Villamor. We see the pattern clearly: Bantag makes a diversionary tactic of presenting several versions of a story to regale us with.

When a gaping 200 x 200 x 30-meter hole was found next to his director’s quarters, what were Bantag’s versions? To date there are three.

He said he wanted to build the deepest diving pool in the whole of Metro Manila, because he was a master scuba diver. Two days later he had a change of tack. He said the pool was intended for the training of jail personnel for disaster response. Neither of these were what he personally told his boss, the Secretary of Justice, in August or September. He told him that he was digging for Yamashita treasure. Imagine Bantag’s outlandish sense of self-entitlement in administering a government property.

Yet an inmate revealed that Bantag never uses the swimming pool in his director’s quarters.

The mysteries at Bantag’s Bilibid never cease. Fifteen horses were found inside the correction facility. An inmate who was seen letting the horses graze (in other words, caring for the horses using government resources) said Bantag owned them. When confronted, Bantag told DZBB radio that the horses were given to him as a gift in 2020. He claimed they just grew in number.

And then he changes tact, again. He wants something similar to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police inside Bilibid to run after escaping inmates. “The horses are used to train BuCor personnel in horseback riding,” he claimed. But he also said he needs an alternative to all-terrain vehicles in patroling the premises.

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From his accounts, Bantag receives so many gifts and keeps them under the care of BuCor personnel. Among them are three pythons kept in the basement of the director’s quarters. He says he doesn’t own them but by a former aide who was assigned to the Davao Prison and Penal Farm.

But he keeps them because “there are so many big rats at the director’s quarters. I have put them in the basement to eat the rats for pest control.”

So we go back to the principal original question on who had Percy Lapid killed. Bantag entertains us with four multiple-choice answers. Take your pick:

First he said that drug lords inside Bilibid wanted Lapid killed. The motive? “Because they wanted to get rid of me.” In short, killing Lapid was just collateral damage. His logic is fantastic, his ego insane.

Interviewed over on CNN Philippines, Bantag tweaked that version by saying crime syndicates inside Bilibid are angry with him. So they killed Lapid to effect his removal from the BuCor. Remulla, he said, has connections inside Bilibid so that he could remove Bantag and place Gregorio Catapang, the current BuCor officer-in-charge, to replace him.

He gave a third version in the same interview that a National Bureau of Investigation official “revealed in a blog” that they were merely ordered by “higher-ups” to implicate him in the Lapid slay case.

And then he said the true mastermind in the Lapid killing is Secretary of Justice Jesus Remulla himself. He claimed Remulla ordered the NBI to pluck an inmate from the Witness Protection Program named German Agojo to contact the confessed gunman Joel Escorial and the murdered middleman Jun Villamor. “Attention Lapid family, ang pumatay kay Percy Lapid ay tauhan nitong Agojo na pinakuha ni Boying, Secretary Boying sa NBI.” He does not explain how Villamor was killed under his watch at BuCor.

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Going by his talent to weave stories out of thin air and gossip, Bantag is a reckless and frivolous misfit trained not for the rule of law but to get what he wants. He says he has 90,000 netizen followers. Check out this Facebook page: Gen. Gerard Bantag Supporters (even the spelling is wrong; his name is Gerald, not Gerard). It says, “This page are supporting DG BANTAG journey we will not stop to encourage DG BANTAG and the people who believe in him as well.” And then it gives away the content creator: TEAM BANTAG, SOLID DDS.

If there are no masterminds higher than Bantag, why would DDS trolls bother to wage a troll-generated shower of paid and fake praises on Bantag? Is it to stop the matrix from going beyond him and uncover the real mastermind with the motive to kill Percy Lapid? There’s the rub. – 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.

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