BuCor chief files plunder raps vs Bantag, 6 others, for ‘anomalous’ prison projects

PLUNDER charges were filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and six others on Monday for alleged misappropriation of P1 billion in public funds intended for the construction of three prison facilities.

Aside from Bantag, also named as his co-respondents were BuCor officers identified as Technical Superintendent Arnold Jacinto Guzman, Technical Inspector Ric Rocacurba, Technical Inspector Solomon Areniego, Technical Officer 1 Jor-El de Jesus, Technical Officer 2 Angelo Castillo and Technical Officer Alexis Catindig.

BuCor Acting Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr., along with BuCor legal counsel Atty. Al Ferreras, personally filed the case against the respondents before the DOJ.

Ferreras said the respondents were also charged with 11 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification of official documents, 12 counts of graft and 12 counts of violation of the Code of Ethical Standard For Public Officials and Employees.

The complaint accused Bantag and the respondents of conspiring to “systematically orchestrate the diversion, misappropriation and/or consenting or permitting other persons, to take public funds” of the BuCor.

The case was filed in connection with the P1billion project involving the construction of three prison facilities, namely, Davao Prison and Penal Farm  (Lot 1), Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa, Palawan (Lot 2) and Leyte Regional Prison (Lot 3) with an estimated cost of P300 million each.

The projects were bidded out in a public bidding on September 17, 2020.

Ferreras said the anomaly started when Bantag created a separate Bids and Awards Committee and assigned non-BuCor permanent officials as members.

Such action, according to the complaint, is a clear violation of Section 65 of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and its implementing rules.

Bantag and his co-respondents were also accused of manipulating the outcome of the bidding when all the three projects were awarded to the Joint Venture of Garay Philweb Builders and Rakki Corporation (Lot 1 and Lot 2) and the Joint venture of Garay Philweb Builders and Eric Van Sesbraño Construction (Lot 3).

The complaint said Bantag and his co-respondents falsified all the different accomplishment reports that served as basis for the release of funds as payment of the works completed.

The accomplishments report on Davao Prison and Penal Farm  (Lot 1) showed a 95 percent completion but in reality only 59 percent was completed.

For Iwahig Prison (Lot 2), it was declared 93 percent complete where in fact only 57 percent was completed.

The accomplishment report for the Leyte Regional Prison (Lot 3) project showed an 80 percent completion but Ferreras said it was only 47 percent completed.


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