JUSTICE Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said on Friday, November 18, 2022, that the excavation found inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) compound was made in a bid to find the Yamashita treasure.

Remulla said this is what suspended Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) director General Gerald Bantag had told him around August or September.

“By the way, that was supposed to be a treasure hunt for Yamashita treasure. Originally. I was told by Director General Bantag about it. And I told him to stop it. I told him to stop it,” he said.

“(It’s ridiculous) saka you’re just wasting government time and money, di ba? Hindi ko alam kung government time and money ang ginamit niya pero ridiculous para sa akin… You’re not there to seek for treasure. You’re there to run the corrections department,” he added.

Bantag was suspended from post due to his implication on the death of veteran journalist Percy Lapid.

He was replaced by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang who revealed the discovery of a “hole” and “tunnel” inside the NBP near the director’s quarters, which is approximately 200 meters wide and 30 meters deep.

Bantag said he ordered the digging for the construction of the “deepest” swimming pool in Metro Manila intended for scuba diving training. He said he was a scuba diving expert.

He said the project was funded by private firm Atom, to which Bucor entered a joint venture for the transfer of the NBP facility in General Trias, Cavite.

In a separate interview over the radio, Remulla said the contract between Bucor and Atom was invalid and non-enforceable since it does not have the approval of the Department of Justice as well as the President.

He said they will study who is possibly liable for the contract.

“I thought it was rubbish. It’s a piece of paper that belongs nowhere except the fact that if they wanted to make a proposal it should have been to the process given by our law. E, wala naman silang sinunod na batas tapos gusto nila papatulan ko,” said Remulla.

Justice Spokesperson Mico Clavano also said they found a document where former justice secretary Menardo Guevarra advised then president Rodrigo Duterte not to approve it. (SunStar Philippines)