Senators back GCTA Recommendations

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    AFTER weeks of intense investigation and days of collating evidence, writing a committee report and deliberating on it, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee headed by Sen. Richard Gordon has finally submitted to the Senate its committee report on the probe concerning the irregular implementation of Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

    During the Senate probe that lasted for several weeks, the senators – mostly through the efforts of Senate President Vicente Sotto, Senators Ping Lacson, Francis Tolentino, Christopher Go, Franklin Drilon and others – determined that there are plenty of irregularities inside the New Bilibid Prisons, aside from the abusive and capricious handling of the GCTA.

    In his characteristic literary-emotional style, Gordon said: “The BuCor (Bureau of Corrections), alas, is manned by rotten apples, and corrupt officials. It is rotten to the core – and, from top to bottom. If we are to improve its functions, if we are to have the Bureau regain the trust of our people, no less than a massive change in personnel and in character is required. Mere lancing of the boil will not be sufficient; putrefaction in that agency is so far advanced, only a total replacement of the whole bureaucracy will allow us to see a new, honest, sincere, serious, and effective agency.”

    His Committee Report No. 42 on the GCTA recommended the filing of charges against Nicanor Faeldon, former chief of BuCor; and his subordinates Ramoncito Roque, Benilda Bansil, Veronica Buno, Dr. Ernesto Tamayo, Dr. Ursicio Cenas and Meryl Benitez. Their violations were mostly in connection with the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law.

    While this recommendation is expected, the more meaty observations of the Gordon committee involve organizational and institutional matters. The panel said there should be a model system of penology, and should include a Code of Conduct for prison management.

    The panel said that full digitization of all prisoner records is a must, including the “carpetas” which should be accessible to the public or the families of the concerned parties.

    The digitizing of records should not only be done at the Bureau of Corrections but should also include the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the committee stressed.

    Sen. Gordon also emphasized that there should be transparency, especially with regard to the computation of time allowances and release of prisoners.

    Also a matter of concern for Gordon is the New Bilibid Prison Hospital, which should be maintained and be well-equipped with adequate medical services. He also proposed that there should be an operations center which can monitor every prisoner. Towards this end, the use of artificial intelligence, digital and video analytics should be made standard inside the prison facilities to ensure that the PDLs, guards, employees are constantly monitored.

    Gordon’s committee uncovered nefarious activities inside prisons, such as prostitution, sale of hospital confinement passes, entry of contrabands, allowing the construction of “kubols” or air-conditioned huts, and favoring certain caterers and suppliers to the detriment of inmates.

    In adopting the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Committee, the whole Senate has shown that it is serious in the effort to set things right at the New Bilibid Prisons and in the Bureau of Corrections as a whole. The public should help the senators in seeing to it that these recommendations are implemented.