The Bureau of Corrections on Monday asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute its suspended chief Gerald Bantag for plunder and graft over the alleged questionable disbursement of P1 billion for the construction and repair of prisons in Palawan, Davao and Leyte.
The bureau’s officer-in-charge, Gregorio Catapang Jr., filed the complaint before the DOJ’s National Prosecution Service.
Also named respondents were Correction Technical Superintendent Arnold Jacinto Guzman, Correction Inspectors Ric Rocacurba and Solomon Areniego, Correction Technical Office 1 Jor-el De Jesus, Correction Technical Officer 2 Angelo Castillo and Correction Technical Officer Alexis Catindig.
The respondents were accused of violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees as well as administrative cases for grave misconduct, dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The complaint said Bantag as BuCor chief conspired with the other respondents to divert or misappropriate P273 million for the P1 billion allocated for the construction of prison facilities in a public bidding held on Sept. 17, 2020.
It said that Bantag’s plan to divert or misappropriate public funds started when he had created a separate Bids and Awards Committee for the infrastructure projects in the three prison facilities and designated non-permanent BuCor officials, Correction Technical Superintendent John Paul Santos and Correction Superintendent Virginia Mangawit as chairperson and member, respectively of the BAC.
The complaint said the designation of Santos and Mangawit, who are among the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology officers brought by Bantag when he assumed the top BuCor post in 2019, is a clear violation of Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The complainant said that during the public bidding for the project, the BAC, which includes Rocacurba who was appointed as vice chairperson “apparently rigged” the outcome of the bidding by declaring the joint venture of CB Garay Philweb Builders and Rakki Corp. as eligible for the bidding for the construction of prison facilities at the Iwahig and Davao prison and penal farm and another joint venture between CB Garay and Evans Sesbreno Construction in its Leyte Regional Prison even though they were clearly ineligible because they did not meet the mandatory requirement of having a Statement of Single Largest Completed Contract (SLCC) within four years of at least 50 percent of the approved budget contract as expressly provided in the Invitation to Bid and as announced during the pre-conference meeting.
The complaint said their SLCC only referred to the construction of the 7-storey Vista Hotel in Cubao, Quezon City with a contract cost of P502.35 million, which was completed on Nov. 26, 2014.
It added that the said SLCC was “non-compliant with the requirement that it must be within four years and therefore, they should have been declared ineligible.
The complainant said in the post-qualification reports, the BAC changed the four-year requirement to 10 years without following the correct procedure to show that the two joint ventures were compliant with the SLCC mandatory requirements.
The bidding, the complaint said, was rigged to favor the winning bidders.
It said that in the implementation of the respective contracts, Bantag also “unlawfully and maliciously falsified” all the different accomplishment reports that served as basis for the release of funds as payments of the work completed.
Respondent Areniego claimed that he just signed the accomplishment reports for all the progress billings without being involved in any site inspection for all the three projects, the complaint said.
It added that Areniego claimed he was told by respondent Rocacurba to sign the same in the accomplishment reports for the first, second and third progress billings on orders of the “boss.”
As to the accomplishment of the fourth progress billing, the complaint said Areniego was also told by respondent Guzman to just sign the document after telling him “Sabi ni DG gawin mo.”
The “Boss” and “DG” according to the sworn statement executed by Areniego and being referred to as Bantag.
In an interview after the filing of the case, BuCor legal counsel Alm Ferreras said aside from the plunder cases, the respondents were also sued for 11 counts of malversation through falsification of public documents, 12 counts of graft and corruption and also 12 counts of violation of RA 6713.
“About P173 million more or less were misappropriated by Director General Bantag and his co-respondents,” Ferreras said.
He said investigation is still ongoing as to the possible liabilities and involvement of the contractors who won in the public bidding for those projects.
A similar probe is underway for a project to construct a prison facility worth P100 million at the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City and in the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm.
“There are still other cases which we are in the process of conducting investigation and or case build-ups,” Ferreras added.