The Senate probe on the botched implementation and interpretation of RA 10592 otherwise known as the Good Conduct Time Allowance is supposed to review the law that reduces the prison sentences of persons deprived of liberty PDL based on their good conduct inside the New Bilibid Prison and other penal institution under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections BuCor and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology BJMP.
However, as the legislative investigation initiated by the Senate Blue Ribbon and National Defense and Security committees moved into its third day Friday last week it became obvious that the joint panel has opened a virtual Pandora’s box of corruption in BuCor.
Practically everything inside the Bilibid is for sale – from carpetas (the inmates’ daily record of behavior), contraband like illegal drugs, liquour, medical conduct passes to subsistence and medicines, the moneymaking schemes in Bilibid can only be described as unli: there are no restrictions to the illegal enterprises of the Bilibid Mafia.
Looking at the tired faces of Senators Richard Gordon and Senator Panfilo Lacson who jointly conducted the probe last week, I think they understood the chamber has stumbled into something that cannot be ignored, that dismissing the massive corruption obtaining in the NBP would be tantamount to willfull neglect of duty and betrayal of the public trust.
What is appalling is that more than five years after a series of raids that targeted drug lords, the trading of illegal drugs inside the prison facility is still alive and well according to information shared by inmates and their family to the media.
I hope the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Sen. Gordon and National Defense and Security committee headed by Sen. Lacson don’t just focus on the GCTA scandal but take careful note at how security in the NBP has become slack and loose.
Ms. Yolanda Cabelon who earlier testified that she gave P50,000 to Ramoncito Roque, BuCor’s documents officer in exchange for the early release of her husband mentioned that she saw how inmates serving maximum sentences would spend time in the area reserved for prisoners serving minimum prison terms. The recognition that hard core criminals or repeat offenders should not mingle with first time offenders is a basic correctional measure and from the way the witness described it during the hearing, the practice has become almost ordinary in the NBP.
A few years back, a key BuCor official talked about the possibility of transferring the NBP to a remote area in Laur, Nueva Ecija. Then DOJ Undersecretary and NBP supervising authority Francisco Baraan III maintained that by transfering the NBP to Laur, the Bilibid mafia would be decapitated since it would make logistics like communications and mobility and out of prison breaks practically difficult to accomplish.
Actually Baraan was just echoing the idea of his predecessor, Ernesto Diokno, who in 2011, also talked of dismantling kubols and transferring high profile and affluent inmates to another building to prevent them from influencing other prisoners. But before Diokno could get his idea into the drawing board, a controversy broke out involving a high profile inmate who was seen in Makati enjoying prison break.
Diokno denied that he helped former Batangas governor and convicted killer Antonio Leviste slip out of the NBP but the incident was enough to pressure Diokno to resign. In the end, 10 BuCor officials were slapped with administrative charges.
Diokno’s resignation triggered a legislative investigation on DOJ officials, this after a Cavite Congressman accused BuCor echelon of practically ceding control of the Bilibid to 10 wealthy inmates including Chinese drug lords who allegedly hold the key to the good life inside the Bilibid. The scandal had then DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima trying to assert her authority by saying her office was filing charges against the Bilibid Mafia.
In February 2017 or two years later, she was jailed for alleged involvement in illegal drugs. Interestingly, she was pinned down by the very drug lords she targeted during the DOJ-led series of raids in December 15, 19 and 22, 2014.
Massive corruption in the NBP is no longer news and the ouster of Nicanor Faeldon as BuCor Director General does not remedy the situation in the NBP.
The question is, how does our system punish those who are supposed to implement the order to punish criminals?
The GCTA mess has triggered scrutiny of the BuCor’s administration of the national penitentiary but the onus to probe deeper and expose the Bilibid Mafia is on the Senate now that it has started the ball rolling.
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