Why killings continue at New Bilibid Prison

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    IT does not need much use of mental energy and faculties to deduce that the brutal killing of Atty. Frederic Santos, chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) legal division, in Muntinlupa City last Wednesday has something to do with both irregular and anomalous implementation by his office of the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law, and the ruckus it created in the Senate.

    Thus, the suspicion aired by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra that Santos was slain because of GCTA is expected, and his Department Order No. 082 on February 19 addressed to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) directing the bureau to investigate the killing, also tells the agents where to start.

    Guevarra said that is “very likely that it might have something to do with the GCTA issue.”
    Guevarra also instructed NBI Director Dante Gierran “to submit reports on the progress of the subject investigation and case build-up directly to the Office of the Secretary within thirty days.” The justice secretary said if evidence warrants, the NBI should file appropriate charges against the perpetrators.

    On Wednesday afternoon, Santos was driving his pick-up when he was gunned down by unidentified gunmen while he was about to fetch his daughter from the Southern Side Montessori School in Barangay Poblacion in Muntinlupa City. Radio announcers have proffered the theory that one or two of the gunmen came straight from the gates of the New Bilibid Prisons and gunned down Santos just meters away from the penitentiary, insinuating that the killers were inmates who were freed temporarily just for this mission.

    As a lawyer and government official who had reached a considerably high position in the bureaucracy, Santos left an unflattering mark in his office. After all, he was the lawyer who advised then BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon that he does not need the approval of the justice secretary in cases of prisoners who needed to be released according to the bureau’s own computations of GCTA, which was a clear violation of law and office tradition in the DOJ.

    Santos and his colleagues in the New Bilibid Prisons somehow stretched their interpretation of Republic Act 0592, also known as the expanded GCTA law, expanded provisions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) concerning the GCTA, to allow the early release of convicts even if these are questionable. Anomalies and hanky-panky in the implementation of the law were uncovered because of the reported plans to release rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, last year. This news, first heard on radio, triggered a full investigation that lasted for weeks in the Senate, and uncovered many more irregularities in the BuCor.

    Just last week, Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Blue Ribbon Committee, released the committee report enjoining the filing of graft and other charges against Faeldon, Santos, and many more BuCor officials. The irregularities include rigged bidding on the procurement of meals for the prisoners, sale of hospital confinement passes, rare privileges granted to rich and paying prisoners, presence of contraband inside the prisons, private “kubols” and air-conditioned accommodations for prisoners who can afford to bribe the guards and the officials, and many more.

    Gordon and other senators have established that rich inmates — not just Antonio Sanchez — convicted of heinous crime would pay huge sums of money to BuCor officials to increase the time that would be deducted from their prison terms. In this racket, Faeldon had their fingerprints all over the place, along with Ramoncito “Chito” Roque, Benilda “Mabel” Bansil, Veronica “Boday” Buno, Dr. Ernesto Tamayo and Dr. Ursicio Cenas – thus Gordon and 17 more senators proposed the filing of graft charges against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.

    The killing of Santos proves that the problems inside Bilibid have not abated, and Sen. Gordon was correct in saying that the bureau is “rotten to the core, from top to bottom.” The Muntinlupa City police and the NBI should brace for many more killings before they finally solve this one.