SENATE Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon is pushing for the Department of Justice (DoJ) to transfer New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the national penitentiary, from Muntinlupa City to the Fort Magsaysay military reservation in Laur, Nueva Ecija.
During the continuation of the Senate budget deliberations on Tuesday, Mr. Drilon said he intends to file a resolution that will call on the Senate committee on finance to monitor developments regarding the transfer.
“We will probably file a resolution invoking the oversight powers of the committee on finance in order to call the Department on a regular basis on two aspects: regionalization of the penitentiary and number two, the use of assets for financing government projects, including regional facilities of the National Penitentiary,” he said.
Moves to transfer the prison facility have been proposed in the past 10 years, Mr. Drilon noted, in order to utilize the 254 hectare site in Muntinlupa City as a source of funding for the government. But plans were not carried out, he added.
“There is a government asset where the national penitentiary sits. There have been moves 10 years back to transfer this facility to Nueva Ecija and create wealth out of the 254 hectares,” he said.
In response, Senator Loren B. Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said a budget allocation for 2019 could not be given for the transfer of NBP since the DoJ has yet to present a proposal.
“By the next budget, (DoJ) will have a proposal because they just received the President’s directive in October. There’s no NEP (National Expenditure Program) allocation for the transfer (in 2019),” she said.
Mr. Drilon said the DoJ could carry out the transfer by bidding out and using the sale of the Muntinlupa City land as payment for the new prison facility. He said the agency should also plan for alternative sources of financing given the lack of funds for the transfer in 2019.
“If we can be innovative enough, they don’t even need a budget,” he said, noting that the proceeds from the lot sale can serve as payment for the facility.
“You have a facility right there, which precisely can generate you the wealth and resources. You need to build a facility in Fort (Magsaysay) and serve several purposes including decongesting the facility and at the same regionalizing if need be for more humane conditions… I don’t see the negative aspect of such a move,” he added.
Mr. Legarda said the DoJ agreed to study the transfer of NBP to Nueva Ecija in order to have allocation in the 2020 budget.
“Justice Secretary (Menardo I.) Guevarra agrees. He agrees that it must be studied. He cannot promise anything, he cannot until the end of the year. It’s not in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and GAB (General Appropriations Bill). So by next budget within one year, by that time they would put at least a budget for the for the initial transfer,” she said. — Camille A. Aguinaldo