Money-making schemes of prisons officials bared

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    On the spot. BuCor Sr. Supt. Ernesto Tamayo (from left, seated), NBP nurse Meryl Benitez, NBP’s Dr. Ursicio Cenas, and Bucor Sr. Insp. Maribel “Mabel” Bansil, and former inmate Jose Galario Jr. (standing) testify at the Senate on the GCTA.
    On the spot. BuCor Sr. Supt. Ernesto Tamayo (from left, seated), NBP nurse Meryl Benitez, NBP’s Dr. Ursicio Cenas, and Bucor Sr. Insp. Maribel “Mabel” Bansil, and former inmate Jose Galario Jr. (standing) testify at the Senate on the GCTA.

    PROSTITUTION, gambling, and kidnapping are among the money-making schemes that corrupt officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and high-profile inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City are engaged in.

    This was bared yesterday by former BuCor officer-in-charge Rafael Ragos and NBI intelligence agent Jovencio Ablen Jr. at the continuation of the Senate hearing into anomalies at the BuCor and the national penitentiary.

    Ragos, who was BuCor OIC from November 2012 to March 2013, said high-profile inmates, mostly Chinese, pay at least P30,000 to prison officials so they would allow entry of prostitutes they call “tilapia.”

    He said convicted drug lord Peter Co frequently received female visitors.

    On questioning by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Ragos said another money-making scheme is kidnapping, wherein high-profile inmates tip the police on potential kidnap-for-ransom victims, including Chinese. He said inmates and the police would negotiate for the release of the victims.

    On gambling by inmates, Ragos said BuCor officials allow this for P800,000 a month. Gambling is usually done in an inmate’s “kubol” or hut.

    Ragos said other money-making activities involve prison officials taking a huge cut from the budget for the prisoners’ daily meals; prisoners collecting money from fellow inmates to be given to a newly-installed BuCor chief; allowing the entry of contraband items each time there is an ongoing construction project in the NBP; allowing the entry of cigarettes and alcoholic drinks for a fee; and accepting money from prisoners for any other “special requests” like having a party inside the jail facility.

    “Marami pong unusual transaction sa maximum security (compound).  Mga tilapia, nakakapasok sila ng diyan ng babae para sa mga high-profile inmates (There are a lot of unusual transactions at the maximum security compound. High-profile inmates are allowed to be visited by prostitutes),” Ragos told the hearing.

    The information disclosed by Ragos was confirmed by Ablen, who said the illegal activities in the NBP amount to P300,000 to P500,000 weekly earnings for top prisons officials.

    Lacson said Ragos and Ablen were invited as resource persons because BuCor resource persons present were not so cooperative.

    Lawyer Frederic Santos, BuCor’s legal division chief, later confirmed the existence of corruption in the NBP and this is because of the “unholy alliance” of prisoners and prison guards.

    “Nababayaran po lahat (Everything can be bought),” said Santos when questioned by Sen. Richard Gordon.

    ‘HOSPITAL PASS FOR SALE’

    Another resource person, former NBO inmate Jose Galario Jr., said he gave huge amount to prisons physician Ursicio Cenas for him to stay at the much comfortable NBP Hospital even if he was not sick.

    Galario is a former mayor of Valencia City in Bukidnon and a graft convict.

    He said while “confined” at the hospital, he saw at least 30 other inmates confined, but were not actually sick.

    He also said a Chinese inmate paid Cenas P150,000 to be allowed confinement at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City even if that prisoner was not sick.

    Galario said a prisoner can stay at the hospital for at least a month, while others can stay up to a year depending on the amount paid.

    He said the inmates approach Cenas to seek approval for hospital confinement for a fee.

    Galario said it was also at the NBP Hospital where illegal transactions were conducted by the inmates, especially those who were convicted for illegal drugs.

    Cenas, who was also present during the Senate hearing, denied the allegations.

    CONTEMPT

    The Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Gordon cited Cenas in contempt, together with Santos and Sgt. Ramoncito Roque, chief of the BuCor’s documents division, for being “evasive” when asked about corruption in the BuCor.

    Gordon said the three will be detained until they can satisfactorily explain why their confinement for contempt is no longer needed.

    The three were brought to the Senate basement where they will be detained.

    Gordon said Santos would not give clear answers on his role and knowledge in the grant of good conduct credits. Roque, he said, did not give clear answers about the bribe he allegedly accepted from an inmate’s partner who in exchange for early release for good conduct.

    Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former BuCor chief, moved to cite the three officials in contempt, to compel them to tell the truth.

    The joint inquiry of the Senate Blue Ribbon and justice committees was triggered by reports last month that rape and murder Antonio Sanchez was to be released soon under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA).

    Questions on the GCTA application arose as convicts of heinous crimes like Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven life terms, were among the beneficiaries.

    After the GCTA-for-sale issue came the hospital-pass-for-sale issue.

    Yesterday’s hearing was the fifth.