THE government has lost control of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City to its high-profile inmates, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said yesterday, while Sen. Ronald dela Rosa admitted the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) was neglected by the government.
The two issued the remarks amid the Senate’s inquiry regarding BuCor’s anomalous implementation of the law on good conduct time allowances (GCTA) to reduce sentences of inmates, as well as alleged schemes involving questionable stays at the NBP hospital and smuggling of contraband items and even foreign prostitutes in connivance with prison guards and doctors.
Lacson said in an interview with radio station dzBB: “Yung mga high-profile inmates, naging napaka-makapangyarihan at napaka-yaman na sila halos ang nagpapatakbo ng kulungan, hindi na ang gobyerno. Kasi sila na ang nagpapatakbo, eh (Those high-profile inmates have become very powerful and very rich to the point that they are running the prison, not the government. Because they are now in charge).”
“Sila na ang nasusunod, kung sino ilalagay sa kubol, sino ita-transfer sa malalayo, sa Iwahig o Davao; kung sino iko-confine sa hospital, kung sino pa isasama i-confine bukod sa kanila. At sila pa nagdi-direct ng operation ng droga sa labas (They are obeyed. They say who would stay in a hut, who will be transferred to far facilities, Iwahig or Davao; who would be confined in the hospital and who would accompany those to be confined. And they direct drug operations outside),” he added.
Lacson said the situation “has gone so bad” that government has become “helpless” and would have gotten worse if the anomalies were not revealed in the Senate’s ongoing inquiry.
Dela Rosa, while admitting government’s neglect of the NBP, said no one dared offer him any bribe or favor when he was BuCor director general.
He said he never received so-called “pasalubong (welcome gift)” and “pabaon” payoffs.
“Ang tapang naman nila kung mag-offer sila sa akin ng ganu’n (They must be brave if they would offer me those things),” he said.
“Ang ahensiya na ‘yan napabayaan ng gobyerno. Pati ang aking pang-gasolina, ako pa mismo nagbabayad (That agency had been neglected by the government. I even had to pay for my gasoline),” he added.
Dela Rosa denied the smuggling of foreign prostitutes, labeled as “tilapia,” took place during his six-month stint from April to October 2016.
“Wala nga po ‘yan. Panahon pa noong nakalipas na pamunuan ang ‘tilapia’ na yan (There is no such thing. There was ‘tilapia’ only during the time of the previous leadership),” the neophyte senator said.
Aside from prostitution, other money-making schemes involving BuCor officials and NBP inmates were disclosed by resources persons during a Senate hearing on Thursday last week. Among the others are gambling, kidnapping for ransom, and entry of contraband items like cigarettes and alcoholic drinks for a fee.
The Senate inquiry was triggered by reports in late August that rape and murder convict Antonio Sanchez was among inmates to be released soon for good behavior under the GCTA law which was passed in 2013.
A wife of an inmate has told earlier hearings that a “GCTA for sale scheme” in the NBP exists.
At least 11,000 inmates were initially seen as beneficiaries of the GCTA law, including about 2,000 convicts of heinous crimes like Sanchez.
Aaron Aquino, chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said authorities should look at activities of officials in other jail facilities where illegal activities are likely also being conducted.
Aquino recalled an instance when PDEA had to conduct a surprise inspection at a provincial jail but made to wait for three hours before as jail officials had to first secure clearance from the provincial governor. He said he suspected jail officials were covering something up.
He said he has also received information that prisoners from some jails are being used by local officials in their illegal activities. The prisoner will be brought back to jail after the illegal mission is done.
Aquino said he observed the same cover-up attempt with sacked BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon, when PDEA wanted to conduct a surprise drug test on inmates of Building 14 (maximum and medium security compound) to determine the prevalence of drug use among inmates.
Aquino said Faeldon turned him down for still unknown reasons.
He said the PDEA also entered into a memorandum of agreement with the BuCor for intelligence sharing in the fight against illegal drugs. He said Faeldon signed the MOA but did not give the BuCor’s full cooperation due to a clause in the MOA which stated that illegal drugs use and precursors and essential chemicals used to make shabu are still prevalent inside the NBP.
He said it was “obvious” Faeldon had something to hide.
Based on information, Aquino said a smart phone can be bought inside the NBP for P3 million, while the old model cellphones can still command P500,000. He said a pack of cigarettes can be bought for P3,000.
The PNP said 431 convicts released through GCTA have surrendered to police stations nationwide but only 252 of them have been turned over to the BuCor as of 6 a.m. yesterday.
Of the 431 who surrendered, 138 were convicted for murder, 130 for rape, nine for robbery with rape, two for murder and robbery, 14 murder and frustrated murder, two attempted rape with homicide, 42 robbery with homicide, 18 violators of anti-illegal drugs laws, eight for parricide, and 28 homicide.
One for car theft, one car theft with homicide, two for robbery, 14 rape with homicide, one each for rape with murder, rape and arson, abduction with rape, and kidnapping with murder; six frustrated homicide, two for kidnapping, one for gun ban, three for possession of illegal firearms, two for theft, one each for attempted rape and acts of lasciviousness.
President Duterte has ordered the released convicts to surrender They have until September 19 to do so.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said two convicts — Josman Aznar and James Anthony Uy — in the 1997 rape-slay of sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong have yet to surrender.
The two were expected to give up last week following the move of the other convicts in the controversial case, who were also released by the BuCor due to good conduct — Ariel Balansag and Alberto Cano.
Perete said last week that Uy has sent word that he would voluntarily surrender, the same with Aznar.
Another convict, Francisco Juan “Paco” Larranaga, is serving his sentence in Spain under the Transfer of Sentence Agreement because of his dual citizenship. – With Raymond Africa and Ashzel Hachero