Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ecija mayor tells Fort Magsaysay execs : ‘don’t bypass us on Bilibid project’

PALAYAN CITY, N ueva Ecija–Neophyte Mayor Adrianne Mae Cuevas has called on the military leadership to consult the city government on the plan to transfer the New Bilibid Prisons from Muntinlupa City to the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in the province.

          Cuevas told newsmen that the Army’s 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division has set for Wednesday the public hearing on the proposed transfer of the NBP but they have not been invited to the said consultations.

          “They need to consult us Palayenos on the planned transfer. In the first place, people from other places who will travel to the proposed NBP site in Laur will pass our place. So our voices will have to be heard,” she said.

          Earlier, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Ge. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said President Aquino wants to have the NBP transferred inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) by 2014.

Catapang said the Chief Executive wants a modern national penitentiary, reportedly worth P40 billion, to be included in his accomplishment report for 2014.

Cuevas said that personally, she is not opposed to the project but would want that a thorough consultation with people in the impact areas should be included in the public hearing.

“My only concern is the welfare of my constituents,” she stressed.

          She said that in the past months, there have been certain moves made by the 7th ID leadership which have not been coordinated with the city government.          “Sometimes, we learn of it from the national offices instead of the 7th ID so we need to be notified because it falls within our jurisdiction,” she said.

          Cuevas explained that consultations with local government units (LGUs) are provided for in the Local Government Code, more specifically Sections 2 and 7.

          Section 2, she said, provides that “all national agencies and offices are mandated to conduct periodic consultations with appropriate LGUs non government organizations and people’s organizations before any project or program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions.”

          On the other hand, Section 7 states that “no project or program shall be implemented by government authorities unless the consultation mentioned in preceding sections are complied with the prior approval of concerned city council is obtained.”    

          Considered the largest military camp in the country, the 44,000-hectare reservation - named after another democracy icon - former President Ramon Magsaysay, houses the Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7th ID), the Scout Ranger Regiment, the Special Forces and the Airborne Forces.

It was also in this reservation where the elder Aquino and his fellow former senator Jose Diokno were placed under solitary confinement for one month during the Martial Law years.

The transfer is now being worked out in coordination with other government offices such as the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and is being eyed as Public Private Partnership Project of the Aquino administration.

Last May, DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, its supervising official on the BuCor and the NBP, said the new facility being eyed is a modern one that will follow international standards and will cost P40 billion.

Baraan said the 551-hectare NBP in Muntinlupa , which opened in 1940, is now heavily congested as it houses 14,500 prisoners in its maximum security detention area alone although it was programmed to accommodate only 8,400 inmates. All in all, the NBP houses around 20,000 inmates. – Manny Galvez  

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