Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa disclosed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is looking to establish another maximum security prison outside Metro Manila.
Dela Rosa, in a radio interview, said that a possible replacement of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City is being considered in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, an ABS-CBN News report said.
“The problem is it’s not included in their budget. The funding for its implementation is not included, so we will pass the problem to Congress. We will look for funds,” Dela Rosa, quoted by the report, said.
Dela Rosa said that he plans to realign some of the DOJ’s proposed funds for 2023 into the building of the new correctional facility. The DOJ has a proposed budget of P26.6 billion for 2023, which is set to be deliberated in the Senate.
“I will move for the realignment of the funds of some lesser priority projects and programs to the construction of the correction facility. I hope I could get support from my colleagues,” Dela Rosa said.
The lawmaker also underscored the possibility of putting up regional maximum security prisons, so that families who cannot afford to go to Metro Manila could visit their imprisoned loved ones more often.
Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday meanwhile said that he was unaware of the excavation activities inside the New Bilibid Prison.
“As former Justice secretary, I had absolutely no knowledge about this alleged excavation inside the NBP compound,” said Guevarra, who served as the Justice secretary under the Duterte administration.
“The same being an operational matter, the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) probably did not find it necessary to inform, much less seek approval from the DOJ,” Guevarra said, in a text message to reporters.
DOJ has administrative supervision over the BuCor, which is in charge of the custody and rehabilitation of national offenders or those sentenced to more than three years in prison.
When asked about the alleged tunnel dug under a swimming pool inside the penitentiary, BuCor officer-in-charge Gregorio Catapang said the excavation was kept secret by the previous BuCor officials because no public funds were appropriated for it.
According to Catapang, they previously asked for the help of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as the excavation was not given a permit and is considered to be “illegal quarrying.”
According to Catapang, it is up to investigators to recommend the filing of charges against suspended BuCor chief Gerald Bantag.
In an earlier television interview, Bantag admitted he was the one who ordered the excavation inside the NBP, saying he plans to construct a deep swimming pool because he is a “master scuba diver.” Bantag denied claims that the excavation was done to build a tunnel.