Catapang: Digging kept secret as no public funds appropriated for tunnel inside Bilibid

Catapang: Digging kept secret as no public funds appropriated for tunnel inside Bilibid

By HANA BORDEY, GMA Integrated News

Bureau of Corrections officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang said Wednesday there were no public funds appropriated for the excavation inside the New Bilibid Prison that is why it was kept as secret by the previous leadership.

“Walang pondo yan kaya nga nililihim yan e,” Catapang said in an interview on Dobol B TV when asked if the bureau had funded the alleged tunnel that was dug under a swimming pool inside the national penitentiary.

(That is not funded by BuCor. That is why they are keeping it a secret.)

Asked if suspended BuCor director-general Gerald Bantag funded this since he had admitted ordering the excavation, Catapang said: “Hindi po. Kasi ginamit ang equipment ng BuCor e.”

In a report by Marisol Abdurahman on “24 Oras” on Monday, Bantag said he ordered the construction of a diving pool because he wants to teach scuba diving. 

“Gusto ko nga sana ng malalim na da-dive-an namin kasi magtuturo kami ng scuba diving. May mga kasama rin akong mga scuba diver, gusto ko silang turuan du’n,” he said. 

He denied claims that the excavation was done to build a tunnel.

“Paanong escape tunnel ‘yan? Baka escape ko? Ang layo-layo nu’n ah. Saan ang escape diyan? Patatakasin ko, eh di ako rin nalintikan,” Bantag said. 

Catapang said it is up to the investigators to recommend charges against Bantag over the said excavation.

“Bahala na po yung mag-iimbestiga kung ano ang rekomendasyon,” he said when asked if Bantag might face malversation charges over the supposed construction activity.

(We will leave it to the investigators to give their recommendations.)

Catapang mentioned that they already identified the contractor of the said project but they will still verify if their information is accurate.

“Yung guwardya sinabi na niya kung ano yung construction firm e pero for follow up pa…Tukoy namin pero sisiguraduhin namin na siya talaga ang naghukay,” he said.

(The guard told us about the construction firm who is working on the excavation site but we will still follow up the information. We already identified it but we will make sure that they are the ones who are digging inside the NBP.)

Catapang said they already asked for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ help as the excavation inside the NBP was not given a permit and is being considered “illegal quarrying.”

He added that the local government of Muntinlupa also did not authorize the said excavation, but it has been monitored by the local officials.

Although he refused to comment if the alleged tunnel is being dug to create an escape route, Catapang said the location of the excavation site is near a creek where people can flee from the national penitentiary.

“Ang quarters ko, director’s quarters, ‘yon ang pinakadulong property ng BuCor na may pader at may creek na puwede ka na rin tumakas,” he said.

(The director’s quarters is on the farthest side of the BuCor compound. It is located beside a wall and a creek nearby where they can escape.)

Further, Catapang said he was informed that there was a metal detector found in the excavation site, and the guards who are assigned there are told to stay away from the vicinity.

Last week, Catapang said they are investigating the alleged tunnel which was dug below a swimming pool. The BuCor OIC said the alleged tunnel is 30 meters high and 300 meters wide. — RSJ/VBL, GMA Integrated News

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