BuCor: Katarungan village wall built to secure NBP

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Bureau of Corrections spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag told CNN Philippines that the new wall — and two other walls built within the New Bilibid Prison reservation — is part of a plan to enforce its mandate and to prevent the NBP compound from becoming a “marketplace.” (Photo by Paolo Barcelon)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 28) — A day after building a wall over a bridge in Katarungan Village in Muntinlupa City, the Bureau of Corrections offered an explanation — that it is part of a plan to secure the New Bilibid Prison area from criminal activities.

Corrections spokesperson and assistant secretary Gabriel Chaclag told CNN Philippines in a phone interview Sunday morning that this new wall — together with two other walls built in different areas within the NBP reservation — is part of a plan to enforce its mandate and to prevent the NBP compound from becoming what he calls a “marketplace.”

“An ideal prison camp is to be secured with perimeter fence and perimeter guard... We want to fortify the security of the camp, and hindi po natin hinahayaan na mawawala tayo sa BuCor na hindi natin ginagampanan ang ating mandate [we are making sure that we will not leave BuCor without fulfilling our mandate],” Chaclag said.

“That is the mandate of the officials of the BuCor – to secure the New Bilibid Prison camp,” he added.

Chaclag also confirmed that two earlier walls – one built over the Insular Prison Road last March and another in the Type B NBP reservation – are part of fortifications being built to protect the area from unspecified criminal activities.

Chaclag also refuted the claim of Katarungan Village residents that their main entrance is part of the NBP road.

“May sarili silang accessibility. May sarili silang access road na kung may dignidad sila, hindi sila nakikidaan sa kampo. Kampo ito, remember. Meron bang subdivision na nakikidaan sa kampo?” he asked.

[Translation: They have their own accessibility. They have their own access road. If they have dignity, they won’t pass through a camp. Is there a subdivision that passes through a camp?]

He also reiterated what the BuCor said in a statement issued Saturday night that residents of Katarungan Village can still utilize the Daang Hari gate, as well as an entrance located near the South Greenheights Subdivision, the entrance road of which is near the Muntinlupa City Hall.

Muntinlupa City Council: enough is enough

Muntinlupa City Council majority floor leader Atty. Raul Corro, however, said the city government has had enough of the BuCor’s wall-building activities, which prompted them to file six city council resolutions last Nov. 27.

“Ang aming patience ay ubos na rin. Puno na ang salop, kumbaga [Our patience has also run out. In other words, the bucket is full],” Corro told CNN Philippines in a phone interview.

The city’s public information office earlier said some of the resolutions were about condemning the BuCor for the said “sudden and illegal closure,” requests for the Senate to conduct an investigation on the matter, and a similar request for the House Committee on Justice.

The others were more deliberate actions and appeals to be undertaken by the city government.

“Hiniling po namin sa Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte, bilang siya po ang appointing authority ni Director Bantag, na baguhin o i-recall ang desisyon ng BuCor sa nasabing kalsada," Corro said, adding this is the "fastest and most efficient" way to solve the issue.

"Ngayon po, kung halimbawang hindi po siya umaksyon agad, meron pa po kaming isa pang resolution na binibigyan namin ng authority si (Muntinlupa) Mayor (Jaime) Fresnedi na magsampa na po ng kaso sa korte,” he continued.

[Translation: We request President Rodrigo Duterte, as Bantag’s appointing authority, to change or recall the BuCor’s decision on the said road. If the President does not act quickly, one of our resolutions filed last Saturday gives Mayor Jaime Fresnedi the authority to file cases in court.]

Corro, who is one of several councilors representing the First District of Muntinlupa where the NBP reservation and BuCor headquarters are located, also sided with the residents of Katarungan Village and nearby communities.

He refuted Chaclag’s claim that Katarungan’s main entrance is in Daang Hari road, saying the road where the wall was built over is a main access route to the city center. Corro claims Daang Hari is just an additional entrance.

“Ang Daang Hari po ay hindi right of way ng Katarungan Village. Ito po ay nabuksan much later after the approved subdivision plan was already done… When the subdivision was established, sa approved subdivision plan po niyan, ang road right of way po niyan ay ang NBP Road,” Corro said.

[Translation : Daang Hari is not the main right of way of Katarungan Village. It was opened much later after the approved subdivision plan was already done. When the subdivision was established, in the approved subdivision plan, the road right of way is the NBP Road.]

One of the resolutions also declared Bantag as an undesirable person in the city.

Chaclag said that as a compromise, the BuCor is open to converting the wall into a controlled gate, after studying the wall’s impact on students of several schools in the area.

“It will be a controlled gate later on… That will be a discussion which is open on the table. We will not discount that,” Chaclag said.

But Councilor Corro refused to consider the suggestion.

“Hindi po dapat lagyan ng gate ang kalsada. Iyan ay road right of way ng mga taga-Katarungan Village [The road should not be obstructed by a gate. It is the road right of way for residents of Katarungan Village],” he said.

He added that thousands of students from the Muntinlupa National High School and the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa will be affected by the barrier once face-to-face classes resume.

Justice Secretary Guevarra had earlier advised Bantag to “stop what they are currently doing” regarding the blocking wall, an advice the BuCor is currently complying.

For now, Corro said they are talking to homeowners' associations of villages near Katarungan to give temporary access to affected residents.

Katarungan Village is a 100-hectare Justice department housing project in the NBP reservation where employees of the DOJ and its attached agencies live.