BUREAU of Corrections Officer in Charge Gregorio Catapang Jr.. File Photo
BUREAU of Corrections Officer in Charge Gregorio Catapang Jr.. File Photo

BUREAU of Corrections Officer in Charge Gregorio Catapang Jr. vowed to file plunder charges against BuCor officials involved in the release of funds for the upgrading of prison facilities.

Catapang said he discovered that 95 percent of the budget for the modernization of three of BuCor’s seven prisons and penal farms have been released, but only 60 percent of the projects have been completed.

Aside from the Iwahig and Davao prisons, BuCor’s other operating units include the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City, Abuyog Penal Colony in Leyte, Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong City, Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro, and San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City.

Each of the prison facilities has a budget of P300 million.

“So, if 95 percent have been released, more or less P290 million has been received. I reported to [Justice] Secretary [Jesus Crispin] Remulla about this last Sunday. I said, if need be, I really don’t feel guilty, I will file a plunder case against those involved in this,” Catapang said.

Republic Act (RA) 10575, or the “BuCor Modernization Act of 2013,” primarily aims to make the BuCor’s systems at par with international prison management standards.

RA 10575 authorizes the construction of additional prison facilities to decongest the NBP.

“Why plunder? Because how was the money released if it didn’t go through them? Who authorized the payment? Although the contractor is responsible to finish the project, in the same manner, BuCor is responsible for the release of the money,” Catapang pointed out.

Based on RA 7080, plunder charges are filed when a public officer, by himself or in connivance with others, through a combination or series of criminal acts acquired ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million.

Any person who conspired with the public officer shall also be punished for the crime.

Meanwhile, 500 newly hired corrections officers took their oath on Monday at the NBP sunken garden.

The hiring of 415 male and 85 female officers is part of the BuCor’s efforts to boost manpower in prisons and penal farms nationwide.

The recruits include licensed architects, agriculturists, civil engineers, psychologists, social workers, teachers, nurses and foresters, among others.

They will undergo rigid training before their deployment to BuCor facilities, Catapang said.

RA 10575 mandates the hiring of additional prison guards to satisfy the optimum corrections officer to persons deprived of liberty (PDL) ratio of 1-to-7. The current ratio is 1-to-35.