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Nation

Bilibid wall row heats up

Robertzon Ramirez, Ralph Edwin Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Bilibid wall row heats up
A worker uses a backhoe to dig up part of a road leading to Katarungan Village in the New Bilibid Prison Reservation yesterday after residents tore down a wall along the same road built by the Bureau of Corrections on Friday night.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Irate residents of a residential community in the New Bilibid Prison reservation tore down a wall within hours after the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) built it to restrict vehicular access to the community on Friday night.

The incident prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to order the bureau to stop building any more structures that would restrict access to residential communities within the reservation and for the Muntinlupa City council to hold an emergency session and pass six resolutions on the issue.

The wall cut off access by residents of Katarungan Village Phase 1 and 2, a DOJ housing project, to the city proper.

“I have advised the BuCor to hold any further construction until we have discussed the underlying reasons or justification, and the proper consultations with the (local government unit) and the communities affected have been conducted,” Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

Guevarra’s statement came after Muntinlupa Mayor Jaime Fresnedi said the residents were compelled to tear down the wall as he emphasized that it was made without the consent of the city government and the residents.

Asked if there was an order from the BuCor to construct such walls, Guevarra said the DOJ does not have the control over the BuCor except on quasi-judicial matters.

However, Guevarra said they may look into the BuCor’s actions in the exercise of administrative supervision over the bureau to ensure that its actions are within the bounds of its powers and jurisdiction under the law.

BuCor built walls to close off Insular Prison Road, which leads to the Southville 3 government housing project, and a road to the residential community of Type B in March and June, respectively. The city government has opposed both projects.

Guevarra said Insular Prison Road was intended for emergency vehicles and not for public use due to its close proximity to the prison compound, prompting the Department of Public Works and Highways to submit a plan for the construction of an alternative road within the reservation.

‘Treacherous’

Fresnedi said the building of the wall was “patraydor (treacherous)” since the BuCor did so in the middle of the night.

“What is the real reason behind the building of the wall?” Fresnedi asked, as he underscored that there was no fencing permit that was requested from the city government, thus making it illegal.

Yesterday, the city council of Muntinlupa passed a resolution condemning the actions of the BuCOr and its officials for the “sudden and illegal” road closures.

They also asked the Senate to conduct an urgent investigation of the matter and the House of Representatives to update the city government on the the probe it conducted on the road closures.

The city council also passed measures authorizing the mayor to file all applicable civil, criminal and administrative cases against “erring” BuCor officials and declaring BuCor chief Gerald Bantag as persona non grata in Muntinlupa.

A resolution also asked President Duterte to immediately recall and overturn Bantag’s actions on the road closures and the illegal eviction of informal settlers from the reservation.

Fortification

In an interview with The STAR, BuCor spokesman Gabriel Chaclag said the building of the wall is based on the bureau’s mandate to fortify and secure the prison.

“That is our only objective, to work and do our mandate which is to secure the safety and security of all personnel, including our persons deprived of liberty,” Chaclag said.

He also shrugged in response to Fresnedi’s statement that what they did was treacherous, saying they have no ill intent and are “just enforcing the law.”

Chaclag said that “for the longest time” there was the possibility that BuCor would close down Katarungan Village.

“When will we implement this? When the traffic is busy? So, it is just logical to do it at night. We have no intention to be treacherous. That is just our mandate,” he added.

He also blamed the local officials for Friday night’s incident, saying they “let the people become violent.”

Chaclag said the building of the wall would be paused following the DOJ order. BuCor officials would hold a meeting on the issue tomorrow, he added.

NEW BILIBID PRISON
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