By Andreah Dianne M. Cartagena

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag, who was suspended for being linked to journalist Percy Lapid's killing, was also called out for discovered controversies during his term, including the excavation of a deep swimming pool and discovery of contrabands and animals inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Photo Courtesy of CNN PH and Richard A. Reyes

State prosecutors served a subpoena to Bantag on November 15 after being tagged as the mastermind of Lapid's killing, which he has since denied.

In his defense, the suspended BuCor chief claimed that he ordered the excavation of the planned deep swimming pool as he was a scuba diver. The hole was discovered to be 200 meters wide and 30 meters deep and was said to have a tunnel below.

“Malalim ‘yon, gagawin sana naming swimming pool. Ang dami naming scuba divers do’n. Master scuba diver ako eh. Kaya mahilig akong ano, gusto namin pinaka-deepest swimming pool sana dito sa Metro Manila siguro,” Bantag said.

Acting BuCor Chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. said that the tunnel was near the quarters of the director general and that the former BuCor administration was "conducting gold hunting in that area."

However, the current BuCor chief stated that the excavation was kept silent for years because government funds were not used for it.

The tunnel was said to have started construction in 2019, but it was not mentioned if it was during Nicanor Faeldon's term or Bantag's, which began in September.

Earlier in November, thousands of contraband items were found from persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), including 7,512 cans of liquor, 1,142 communication devices and accessories, 1,314 deadly weapons, 1,019 cigarettes, sachets of illegal drugs, and 104 gambling materials, and 15 personnel were reported to be involved in the smuggling.

Recently, animals were also uncovered inside NBP, such as horses, roosters, and a snake, which the PDLs and the BuCor's funds took care of.

Edited by Khezyll Galvan